So, let me just give a brief rundown of what exactly is in this 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe re-release of the Who’s landmark live album. 1 Poster: black & white, iconic image of Townshend windmilling his Rickenbacker; 1 hardcover book: a few dozen pages of essays, recording information and facsimiles of historical documents related to the Who; 1 vinyl single: Summertime Blues b/w rare studio take of Heaven & Hell; 1 vinyl LP: the original release of Live at Leeds; 4 CDs: CD 1 features the entire Leeds concert, except for the Tommy material; CD 2 features the live, almost complete run-through of Tommy from the Leeds concert; CD 3 features all the non-Tommy material from the following night’s Hull concert (set list is exactly the same as the Leeds concert, with the exception of Magic Bus, an encore from Leeds that wasn’t performed at Hull); CD 4 features the almost complete run-through of Tommy from Hull.
Now, let me just say. The sound quality. The ******* sound quality. The sound on the CDs here is just mind-blowingly good. I mean, you crank this one up and close your eyes and you really do feel like you’re there. For a group with not a single wasted bit of sound, this kind of quality is really necessary. You can’t afford to lose a single throb of Entwhistle’s bass or a single thump of Moon’s drums or a single buzz of Townshend’s guitar or a single rasp of Daltrey’s voice and the sound here captures all of that to absolute perfection.
On to the music itself. I’m a fan of the Who, no question, and the non-Tommy stuff is a fantastic mix of their stuff, from power pop-rock like Substitute and I’m a Boy to the longer form jam band stuff like the sixteen minute version of My Generation to the old-school covers, like a rampaging take on Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues, a thunderous breakdown of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues and a grim, ferocious version of Johnny Kidd’s Shakin’ All Over, a rendition, by the by, that really equals Zep’s Whole Lotta Lovin’ for just pure insane, hard-charging lust. The set lists at both Hull & Leeds are the same, but who cares; I listened to all four CDs here numerous times and I never got tired of hearing the songs, so the fact that the final two CDs basically repeat the first two is no kind of problem at all.
Now, I’m not a big fan of Tommy or anything. I think Quadrophenia is the rock opera success for the Who. Maybe for all time. I’m not a big fan of rock operas in general. But I definitely recommend the run throughs here over listening to the original album. The performances here are just rawer and more passionate and more intense. The excision of a couple of songs, like Cousin Kevin, for instance, don’t hurt. When Tommy actually works (Eyesight to the Blind, Pinball Wizard, etc.) it just cooks here; and when it doesn’t totally work, these recordings carry you through via the energy of the live setting.
Anyway, I’m going on and on, but I guess it all boils down to four guys, all among the very top tier of their respective talents, on stage, making a transcendent ruckus. It’s technically superb, masterfully performed, brilliantly engaging and energizing. Transcendent ruckus. I like that. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – two insanely long concerts by insanely talented band at its peak; brilliant, breath-taking, intense; the Platonic ideal of live rock. 4 stars.