Review #327: Live At Leeds, The Who

#327: Live At Leeds, The Who

Two days in a row, my road trip started out with a 4 a.m. Who album. Even more bizarre, both featured “Tattoo,” a tattoo takedown where Roger Daltrey insults me directly.

The Who gave themselves their own difficult act to follow with Tommy, and decided to cushion any new material with this live album full of tried-and-true hits. They eschewed a bunch of concerts recorded in the US for this one recorded at University of Leeds.

It’s a shame that the mic was pointed away from the crowd, making them virtually inaudible, except for when Pete Townsend and Keith Moon are shooting the shit, because I bet this crowd went wild. Their cover of Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues” is designed to light college kids on fire, and their indulgent performance of “My Generation” would make any group of people who are all the same age flip out.

I wouldn’t normally describe the Who as a “heavy” band, but this one gives off old-school metal in the heaviest way, a la Black Sabbath, most obviously on the sinisterly harmonied opener “Heaven and Hell.” Their blues songs are all so mean, too: “Summertime Blues” and “Shakin’ All Over” have dirty growls and rickety guitar parts and all that good shit.

But the heaviness doesn’t stop them from acting so, so, so British. Keith Moon suggests that a “jazz sage” is “a flavor of chicken.” Pete Townsend quips that they’re going to play their “three easiest” singles, and then they play the very prim and doofy “Substitute,” “Happy Jack” and “I’m A Boy.” It’s crazy that those are the three songs the crowd seems to go most wild for, since, you know, I didn’t know any of them. (Maybe that just means I’m a fake fan.) Brit-Rock: It’s a different animal.

The original record was only 35 minutes long, although the original concert included basically all of Tommy. The version I listened to was nearly twice as long but only includes one artifact from Tommy, “Amazing Journey / Sparks.” And the 2001 re-release was two freaking hours. Don’t classic rock fans know that new music has been released since 1970?

All this is to say: This is just a live recording of stuff the Who already did. So what if it’s great fun to listen to?

It’s taken me a while to land on this, but I think live albums are officially cheating.

Favorite Song: “A Quick One While He’s Away” because they all sound like they’re having a the time of their lives. In fact, watch this video — Keith Moon really looks like he’s having a blast. It’s their most vocally complicated one, and every take I hear is just as funny and perfectly-timed as the last.

Least Favorite Song: “Fortune Teller.”

Favorite Simpsons’ Reference: “Play ‘Magic Bus’!”

Review #326: Dirty Mind, Prince

Review #328: Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend

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