THE WHO: LIVE IN HYDE PARK (2015)
Featuring Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Simon Townshend, Pino Palladino, Loren Gold, Frank Simes, Zak Starkey, John Corey, Robert Plant, Johnny Marr, Paul Weller and Iggy Pop.
Directed by Chris Rule.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 109 minutes. Not Rated.
Fifty years on from becoming famous for rebelliously writing and singing “I hope I die before I get old,” the members of The Who have indeed gotten old. At least the two surviving original members have, the other two guys did live out the prediction by dying young.
However, does the fact that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are now both over 70 mean that they still can’t pull off the anarchic thrill and aggression of “My Generation?” Or does the fact that they have survived give the old protest song a tinge of melancholy resolve?
After all, this summer when the band did a special 50th anniversary show at the Hyde Park rock festival, which is now being released on both video and audio in this package, Townshend introduced that old hit by saying, “This is a song for all ages.” That was particularly relevant because he was speaking to a crowd mixed between old fans and younger fans who were undoubtedly at the festival for other artists, but who knew they were in the presence of one of the major names in classic rock?
So is m-m-m-m-my-y generation now e-e-e-e-everybody’s generation? Can a 50th anniversary concert film pack the same punch as The Kids Are Alright or Live at Leeds? Will the new kids be alright with watching this rock band that is made up of contemporaries with their grandparents?
On a more basic level, you have to wonder: do The Who still have a place in the pop culture firmament, when for the last decade or so their work has been most visible through its placement as the theme songs for the CSI TV franchises?
After all, they have only released one album of new studio material in the new millennium, and the 2006 release Endless Wire was not exactly one of their better-known albums. (Quick, name a song from Endless Wire. I bet you can’t.) Before that you have to go back to It’s Hard in 1982 to find new original music. In order to find one of their classic albums you have to go back even farther, to Who Are You? in 1978.
Also, as noted before, the band’s original rhythm section are now long dead. Drummer Keith Moon died of a drug overdose in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle of a heart attack (also drug-related) in 2002. In the meantime, guitarist and songwriting genius Townshend has drifted in and out of music for decades due to a large reservoir of other interests, and lead vocalist Daltrey has been having some vocal problems in recent years. The band has been reuniting and touring periodically over the years since they originally broke up in 1983, and both Townshend and Daltrey have acknowledged that most of those tours were causes of both celebration and strife.
This reunion show had the potential to be a disaster.
Therefore, the fact that it turned out to as good as it was is something of a minor miracle. Well, maybe not a miracle. It would be pretty difficult to completely muff a show in which you have as solid a catalog of songs as The Who.
Not only don’t The Who muff it with Live in Hyde Park, they put on a damned good refresher course on why they are rock and roll legends. This set, which runs nearly two hours, rocks from wall to wall.
Playing in front of over 65,000 people, Townshend opened the show by shouting out to the crowd “You are a long way away, but we will fucking reach you,” before launching into a scorching version of “I Can’t Explain.” While Townshend’s playing is a little less flashy than it once was (no smashed guitars here), the dude can still play a mean lead. Daltrey took it a little easy on his voice in some of the early songs, but by the time he reached the screaming id vocal of “Love Reign O’er Me,” he was all in.
The Who: Live in Hyde Park takes a fun and frenzied romp through the band’s songbook, touching on most of the big hits but slighting some of the deep tracks. The band sounds joyous on “The Kids Are Alright,” takes on a sinister vibe for “Behind Blue Eyes,” careen wildly out-of-control on “Who Are You?” and even later (comparatively), lesser singles like “You Better You Bet” and “Eminence Front” sound pretty damned good in this setting.
It’s a little odd to see some of the busy video backgrounds for a show of such vintage hits, but it’s the way of the world now, so the blinking lights and stock footage and laser effects just play a part. Besides, in a good-natured nod back at past friends and compatriots, throughout the singing of “Pictures of Lily,” the video screen had a projection of a sepia-tinted glamour shot of Keith Moon cheekily dressed in women’s lingerie. That alone was worth having the video screen for.
It can be fairly said that the current band members are not quite up to the quality of the band’s original members. However, if Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr) is not quite as wildly anarchic from the drum kit as Keith Moon, he’s been manning this role for 20 years and his playing is tight. Likewise, Pino Palladino (formerly of Eric Clapton’s band) may be no John Entwistle, but he’s a rock solid bass-for-hire. An added dimension is also taken by Townshend’s brother Simon on rhythm guitar, who helps to keep the sound tight.
By the time the guys close out on a thirteen-minute-long extended jam of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” there was no one in the place who wasn’t a Who fan. That statement should also be extended toward the people watching it on video.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 29, 2015.