What else can be written about The Who that hasn't already been written over the course of their 50-year career? I mean, they are the quintessential Rock 'n' Roll band. They are a singles band, they are an album band, but most of all, they have always been the best live band in the business. From Live at Leeds, The Isle of Wight, Woodstock, and more, The Who have always been a force to be reckoned with on the stage.
On June 26, 2015 the band celebrated their lengthy career with a 50th Anniversary show in London and documented the event with The Who: Live In Hyde Park. In a two-hour plus show in front of over 65,000 people, The Who delivered exactly what you would expect from them, a high energy show that brought smiles to themselves and the audience. Personally, I would catch myself almost giddily grinning when they would start a new song and I'd watch one of my favorite bands still deliver the goods.
The Who is a band that has changed with age but hasn't conceeded their youth. It's really almost remarkable how good both Roger and Pete look. That's not to say they are the same band as they always were. Is Roger's voice the same as it was all those years ago? No, of course not; he's 71 years old. Is it still strong and powerful, and can he still nail the scream in "Love Reign O'er Me" - damn right he can.
As for Pete, at 70 he doesn't jump as high as he used to and his windmills aren't as wild, but he's still Pete and he'll always be Pete. His guitar playing is still top notch and his voice is also still in fine form.
I get the sense that they are still having fun, still enjoying the performances. I don't think they need to still do what they do, it appears that they still want to, and that comes through in this show.
Of course, the band has faced tragedy over these many years, losing both drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, leaving Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend as the only official band members. For this show, they are supported by long time fill-in drummer Zak Starkey, Pino Palladino on bass, and Pete's brother Simon on second guitar, along with a trio of keyboard players. While it's impossible to replace Keith and John, Zak (who is Ringo Starr's son) and Pino are excellent in their own right.
The song selection is the greatest hits, which is appropriate. You've got the anthems, "My Generation," "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," along with live staples like "Join Together" and a healthy chunk of songs from Tommy. I'd have liked to hear more from Quadrophenia but "I'm One" is a favorite and Pete nailed it per usual. No real surprises included or omitted.
There are bits of interview footage interspersed between the songs in which Roger and Pete talk about their longevity, their interaction with the audience, and why they still do what they do. The footage fits well and helps put the 50-year milestone in perspective without it being a full-blown documentary.
The sound and video quality are quite good and the show itself is presented nicely with good camera work. The stage backdrop was a screen that featured band photos and videos. A great moment was captured when at one point you can see Roger's emotional reaction to photos of Keith and John on the screen.
Classic songs, great performances, and an enthusiastic audience all gel together nicely, and that's what makes this collection so rewarding to watch. It's a band acknowledging and celebrating its legacy, but not resting on it. It's a band that still rocks its audience, still causes fist pumps, air guitar, and drumming.
It's still The Who.
After 50 years, one might wonder if we need another live Who release and I would answer absolutely. If indeed this is the end of the road for The Who, I think this is a really great bookend to an amazing career by an amazing band.
The Who: Live In Hyde Park is available as a DVD+2CD set, a Blu-ray+2CD set, a DVD+3LP set, digital formats, and a Deluxe Edition Blu-ray+DVD+2CD set.