Just when you thought everything you ever needed from the Who is available on the marketplace, along comes the double DVD At Kilburn 1977, maxed out with a pair of momentous shows from the band’s peak years. Thirty years have passed since Keith Moon roamed the earth, so any updated visuals of the maniacal madman pounding away at the skins typically gets the Wholigans excited. Digitally restored and brought up to 5.1 specs, At Kilburn 1977 leaps off the screen and puts you right in the middle of a rock and roll roundhouse to the nervous system.
The December 15, 1977 Kilburn show at the Gaumont State Theater in North London was presented before a select audience and filmed especially for Jeff Stein’s movie about the Who, The Kids Are Alright. Only a couple of numbers from the concert made the final cut, while the rest of what ended up being drummer Keith Moon’s last performance with the Who remained stowed away and unreleased. Fortunately, the entire show was filmed in 35mm with six cameras and a 16-track audio recorder, making it a prime candidate for digital release. Stretched into a fine, wide high definition picture and punched up to surround, the ‘orible Who never looked or sounded better.
Pete Townshend does his best to shake the rust off by wind-milling and stumbling around more than usual. Moon isn’t quite the dynamo of ten years earlier, which slows the pace somewhat but hardly softens the edge. As long as John Entwistle’s thunder fingers can whip the verses into gear, then all is right in Whodom. The set list is typical of Who set lists, then and now. Face it: It wouldn’t be the Who without “I Can’t Explain,” “Substitute” “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “My Generation” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” But there are some out-of-the-ordinary tracks like “Dreaming From The Waist” from The Who By Numbers, followed by a lumpy patch of Tommy, and plenty of loose jams. Despite its brevity, the Kilburn show is a fabulous slice of Whoness.
The second disc is buried in the auspices of the DVD’s title, but it stands on its own as the London Coliseum show from December 14, 1969. At this point, the Who were in full stride, playing behind Tommy and making waves where ever they went. This performance, as rough and raw as it seems, is the Who at their all-time nastiest. Opening with the powerful “Heaven And Hell,” the group slays each number — “I Can’t Explain,” “Fortune Teller,” “Tattoo” — before ascending the mountain of conceptual copiousness. The main feature includes only bits and pieces, while more complete versions of “A Quick One While He’s Away” and Tommy are tucked away in the Extras section. Could it be the original film makers were reluctant to include the extended pieces in their final, yet unreleased form? For our purposes, it simply adds another dimension to the At Kilburn 1977 package. You gotta love DVDs for that.