October 1, 2020

1995-03-10 – The Greenville News

1995 03 10 The_Greenville_News_Fri__Mar_10__1995_

Remastered ‘Live at Leeds’ shows Who in top form

By J.D. Considine

“‘ The Baltimore Sun

When the Who‘s “Live at Leeds”
was first released, some 25 years ago,
it was greeted with equal measures of
enthusiasm and disappointment.

Although both fans and critics
were eager to hail it as one ofthe
greatest live rock performances on
record, most added that, good as it
was, listening to the album wasn‘t the
same as being there.

Why not? For one thing, the origi-
nal album was a mere 45 minutes
long, whereas the actual concert
clocked in at two hours and 15 min-
utes. For another, though the actual
show included a complete perfor-
mance of “Tommy," the album
touched on the rock opera only once.
when “My Generation" detoured into
some random quotes from the work.

But the biggest problem with “Live
at Leeds" was that it came across less
as a document of the event than as an-
other Who album; that is, a recording
in which the emphasis was as much
on the material as on the playing. And
as anyone who caught the Who back
then can attest, the thrill of seeing the
band live was reveling in the almost
telepathic interplay between the four
band members: Guitarist/songwriter
Pete Townshend, lead singer Roger
Daltrey, bass guitarist John Entwistle
and drummer Keith Moon.

The Who in concert

Fortunately, that’s precisely what
comes through in the newly remas-
tered and expanded reissue of “Live
at Leeds" (MCA 11215). True. itdoes
omit most of “Tommy,“ offering only
the “Amazing JourneySparks" se-
quence, but even so, it offers more
Who — 14 songs instead of the LP’s
original six. for 77 minutes of music
and a far more vivid sense of what it
was like to see that band live.

Just how “live" the album is be-
comes clear in the first few seconds,
for we can actually hear the Who tak-
ing the stage and testing their instru-
ments before charging into “Heaven

and Hell.” Although guitarist Towns—
hend told Rolling Stone magazine at
the time that “Heaven and Hell” had
been omitted because it was techni-
cally deficient, all that really means is
that he played some bum notes here
and there.

That doesn’t affect the quality of
the playing, though; ifanything,
those minor mistakes merely reflect
the intensity of the band’s instrumen-
tal attack. When Townshend charges
into his solo, the interplay between
his guitar, Entwistle’s bass and
Moon's drums rivals even the improv-
isatory gusto of Cream’s livejams. By
the time the tune ends, it’s clear what

made audiences mad for this band ——
and what it lost by making song-
writing the principal focus of its stu-
dio recordings.

There's plenty more where that
came from, too, including a some-
what longer “My Generation" (more
feedback, among other things) and a
stunning run through “Amazing
JourneySparks." But even the “sin-
gles” —— songs like “I Can’t Explain."
“HappyJack” and the R&B standard
“Fortune Teller” — benefit from the
freedom and ferocity of the Who's on-
stage interplay.

For many fans. though, the best
thing about this new “Live at Leeds"
will be the way it brings the band
members themselves to life. Not only
do we hear all the introductions, but
we hear how much fun the four of
them were having, from the drolleries
at the beginning of “A Quick One,
While He’s Away” to exchanges like
the one before “Young Man Blues,"
in which Townshend mentions that
he’d seen composer Mose Allison de-
scribed as “ajazz sage” in some liner
notes. “Quite what that means, I don’t
know,” says Townshend, to which
Moon replies, “It’s a flavor of chick-
en."

That was the kind of wit and
whimsy fans expected of the Who
then, and it helps make “Live at
Leeds" the next best thing to having
been there.