The Who: At Kilburn 1977


I’ve always known that the Beatles are rock’s greatest band. There’s no denying it. But I do have to wonder why I question that every time I listen to the Who. I think it’s because the Beatles made rock music what it is, but the Who actually embodied it like no one else. (The Clash is probably the only band that I think of in the same way). The two shows on this DVD are a lot like hearing that stutter in "My Generation" or the huge guitar of "Baba O’Reilly" for the first time. It’s just great rock n roll in its purest, most deliberate form.

By the time of the Kilburn show, the Who had an incredible catalog with which to build a great show. By the time they’ve amassed this kind of material, most bands have been at it too long and lost too much of their hunger to deliver on their own greatness, but nothing could be further from the truth about the Who. They come off a year-long hiatus and yet, other than the recording quality, they sound like they’d spent that year pounding out these songs in a garage, not relaxing on the fruits of their labors. "My Generation" gets reworked, but everything here feels as fresh and new just on the electricity alone. Interestingly enough, this came the same year punk exploded and I can’t help thinking that punk may not have been necessary had other bands been playing it like the Who, with wild, reckless abandon and the heart of kids. I know, that’s two bold statements in one review, but I don’t make them lightly.

You’ll watch the Kilburn show and think, "Man, this is one of rock’s greatest bands at the peak of their power!" Then, throw in disc two and wonder, "How could they have been at their peak in 1969 also?" The answer is simple though. The Who never lost their sense of what their music was about and who it was for. They just stayed that good. Neither the video nor the audio for the earlier show is as good as it was eight years later for the Kilburn show, but somehow it gives an even better sense of how loud the world’s loudest band was. You could turn the volume down to a whisper and there’s still a very tangible sense that it’s just LOUD.

Who is rock’s greatest band? It might be almost unfair to answer right after watching this one.

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