Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004

The Who

It’s hard to say when the Who regained their footing after the death of bassist of John Entwistle in 2002, but if the Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004 CD/DVD set is any indication, you can safely say that the band was, two years later, a living and breathing powerhouse, keeping it loud and wily. For their first appearance at the Isle Of Wight Festival since their legendary 1970 performance, the Who delivered an explosive set of hit singles and classic album tracks to an adoring, multi-generational audience of 35,000 — a fraction of the 650,000 who came to the same site in 1970.

Opening with “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute,” Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, backed by drummer Zak Starkey, guitarist Simon Townshend, bassist Pino Palladino keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, waste little time firing up the crowd, which transform into a sea of heaving bodies the minute Townshend swings his arm and scratches out the first power chord. He later asks if it’s loud enough and remarks, “Turn the fucking sound back up.” This coming from a guy who’s battled tinnitus off and on for decades.

In addition to setlist staples like “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Who Are You,” “My Generation,” and “Magic Bus,” deeper tracks like The Who “Bargain” from Who’s Next and “The Punk And The Godfather” from Quadrophenia made the grade. The Isle of Wight gig took place soon after the release of Then And Now, a Who compilation with two new songs. So it was only apt that “Real Good Looking Boy,” a tribute to Elvis Presley, and “Old Red Wine,” a tribute to John Entwistle, were included, though both would soon fade away and lose their place in their catalog.

Songs from Tommy fill out the rest of the set. Seeing the Who take on “Amazing Journey” and “See Me Feel Me / Listening You” from the album, which they played in its entirety in 1970, confirms that in 2004, Townshend still liked to wipe the floor with a wide selection of sweeping arpeggios and darting down strokes. Meanwhile, Daltrey’s voice was relatively unscathed, and the rest of the band was in the pocket and on the money at every conceivable turnabout. Over a decade later, and the Who, with an expanded lineup, continues to win over the flocks at big events like Desert Trip and a summer run of shows in Las Vegas. Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004 captures an active year of a band surviving the loss of two key members and looking like they still have a few more years ahead of them.

~ Shawn Perry

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