Live At Leeds

The Who

As a live attraction, the Who were unrivaled in their assault in the late 60s and early 70s. Key appearances at Monterey, the Rolling Stones' Rock N' Roll Circus, Woodstock and the Isle of Wight only confirmed that the band were a sonic force to be reckoned with. The group toured incessantly behind Tommy for almost two years. In February 1970, they played a few one-night stands in England, culminating in a concert at Leeds University. Fortunately, the tapes were rolling and the performance was captured. From this, Live At Leeds, arguably one of the most authoritative 'live' albums ever, was released. Offering just six tracks, the original album, in its tattered jacket, faithfully documented the Who in all their glory — loud, boisterous and magnificent. Over 25 years later, fans would find out that the original release only told half the story.

To the delight of Who junkies far and wide, Live At Leeds has been refurbished and worked over a number of times. In 1995, it was expanded with seven additional tracks. A 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the whole show has been unearthed. Complete with in-between song banter and Tommy in its entirety, Live At Leeds is once and forever a shining example of how a live album can portray the bare bones vigor of a lethal combination. Keith Moon and John Entwistle virtually attack the rhythm, Pete Townshend tosses off one windmill after another, and Roger Daltrey wails through each stanza with hearty conviction. Together, the Who's heavy sound roars beneath the vocals, creating a harmonious and rich thunder that is both passionate and profound. Conventional wisdom dictates the following: Turn it up!

With riveting B-sides like "Heaven and Hell" and "Tattoo," the Who unleashed a steady tide of peculiar melodies. Townshend's songwriting skills may have risen to new heights, but the band's irrefutable renditions of "Fortune Teller," Shakin' All Over," and especially "Summertime Blues" — THE one and only single from the original Live At Leeds — easily ride alongside "I Can't Explain," "Substitute" and "My Generation." The night was a bit swanky to begin with as the band played their mini opera "A Quick One, While He's Away" before launching into a full-scale "Tommy." Somehow, the magnitude is tempered with humor as Townshend refers to "Thomas" as a "pop rock opera" or thereabouts. Mooney, of course, has to pipe in by tapping the rim of his drum and calling for quiet because "it's a bleedin' rock opera..." And then, without hesitation, the Who fall into "Overture" and scarcely draw a breath for the next hour. Through it all, it's hard to believe that Live At Leeds has actually gotten better with age. Long Live Rock!

~ Shawn Perry

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