Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: The Who at Kilburn 1977 (DVD)

I was thrilled to see this in the wet bundle of mail upon our re-entry into the semi normalcy of being home after a truly challenging Christmas. It was like Santa himself donned a big puffy union jack-et before he chucked it through my mail slot, poured another finger of whisky in his hot chocolate and sledded off.
I like DVDs. You can still get artwork and liner notes and sit down and read them in preparation for viewing. You might get extra scenes which in the case of this release, is an entire second DVD containing an important,albeit grainy and poorly lit Who show from 1969 where Tommy is performed in ins entirety! See it....Feeeel it!

But I digress....This show from December 1977 is important for a handful of reasons. First and foremost..its a Who show. There really was nothing like a Who show in the 70s....always caustic and cacauphonic. The band had not played a show in well over a year, cranky,rusty and buried deep in the recording process for the release of Who Are You(not to see the light until Aug.'78). They needed some live footage for The Kids Are Alright documentary being put together at the time,rented a Hall, set up some pro cameras and invited 1000 kids to this "surprise concert" not telling them they were just there to fill the seats for footage.
The surprise they got was Pete Townshend shuffling between grenade- without- a -pin stage banter and jack boot acrobatics. People, remember...punk had broke through in the UK in 1977 and Pete wasn't having any of it. At one point he challenges "there's a guitar up here if any big mouth little git wants to come take it off me." He complains to the director that this venture wasn't worth filming and Stein(the director)"better send the camera men home." The confrontation bristles with punkish energy and even flourishes when in mid solo, Pete pushes his HiWatt heads off of their cabinets in disgust and continues his run up the neck of good ole' Gibson 1.

What it truly is is a brilliant show...a testament to the glory of those monumental live rock shows from the 70s that The Who really put on the map. Its a blueprint for the gossamer frail indie bands of today(read: Fleet Foxes) to study before building any sort of plan for winning over an audience. Even on an "off night" The Who shake the earth. Pete windmills his sleeve right off of his shirt..cooling off the first three rows of crowd in the process. He high kicks mic stands during Won't Get Fooled Again and slides all over the stage in frustrated ecstasy, and ultimately triumphs. Roger is in top form, hitting the screams, bringing a heated harp portion to Baba O' Riley and belting out Townshend's angry young man lyrics with middle age prowess. We also get as an unmentioned bonus, the very first live take of Who Are You..having been fleshed out in the studio weeks prior to this filming. Nowadays, most folks think CSI, and not The Who when they hear this song on their trusty Tivos. It is live and real for the first time, here.

The focus for me and the reason to get your hands on this DVD are the antics, energy and legend that was Keith Moon. Keith shows up bloated, disheveled and in a purple jumper he probably borrowed from Doug Henning. And as rusty as he may have been in Pete's eyes and facial expressions.. there was no evidence laid in front of me here. Being an OK drummer myself, I have always been in awe of Keith's technique(or lack thereof) and how he always made it work within a blur of Toms,cymbals and extremities! Thats all here...and even Moon at 5/8ths of his speed is a drummer like no other. Just try to find that Hi-hat...I dare you. I did get a chill when during his typical introduction of Behind Blue Eyes he says "I'm gonna go backstage and OD and I'll see you in 3 and a half minutes." You see...this was Keith Moon's second to last show with the Who, and the only reason it wasn't his last is because Pete thought this show was bollocks and un-useable for the Kids documentary, and re- staged it at Shepperton Studios for the fan club soon after this one. That would explain all of the pictures in the DVD program, most which do not match the wardrobe of the Kilburn show...especially a pic of Roger in full suspenders, clearly an homage to Mork from Ork.

The Who at Kilburn Hall DVD is a must for any Who fan, for this glimpse of the snarl and the substance of a band at the tail end of their peak. It is a raw and flawed but enormous and influential look at a band as a lit powder keg before the loss of Keith Moon, the Cincinnati stampede and the synthesized years of Face Dances and Its Hard....see for yourself.


  1. Hey Seano - great review. I just got around to posting my own review at I held off on reading yours until mine was done! I agree that Moonie on half thrusters is still better than most drummers of the period. I thought this DVD was one of the best finds in years.

  2. I agree with your agreeing with me. And nice review yourself....what else ya got coming up?