The Who – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (1996)

Share this:

You’re to be forgiven — even if you were there — for missing this one.

Seems, because of lengthy set overruns by the bands that preceded them, the Who didn’t take the stage at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival until the no-kidding hour of 3 a.m. (The bill that year included, among others, the Doors, whose frontman Jim Morrison was on a five-day bail after an obscenity charge.)

This recalled the Who’s memorable pre-dawn performance stateside at Woodstock, when morning actually broke as the group worked toward the thematic climax of its celebrated rock-opera “Tommy.”

The middle of the night, in retrospect, feels like the perfect setting for a then-dangerous rock conglomerate whose sound was never accurately replicated inside the confines of any recording studio.

This is the Who in all its ragged glory, before time took drummer Keith Moon and John Entwistle, before “Tommy” became a triumph-turned-millstone that dragged the band under. Roger Daltrey is in full cry, and Pete Townshend still plays with sharp clarity then remarkable venom.

The Who tear through signature early-period hits (“I Can’t Explain,” Substitute,”) as well as highlights (embedded below) from the then-new “Tommy.”

There are also some nice surprises.

Sprinkled in amongst those perhaps-expected gems are covers of seminal favorites like “Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” a medley of “Shakin’ All Over/Spoonful/Twist and Shout” and Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues”) as well as songs meant to comprise the Who’s next release, another outsized (and ultimately doomed) rock album/stage show originally to be titled “Lifehouse” — several songs of which later made up the basis of 1971’s smaller-scale “Who’s Next.” Included in this 1970 show are “Water” and, wedged between “My Generation” and “Magic Bus” in the finale, “Naked Eye.”

A nearly career-spanning 2 CD set, “Wight” has the same edge as the earlier “Live at Leeds,” but far more depth.

In the end, the Who raged and roared for more than two hours during this, the third and final edition of a legendary late-1960s English festival/concert/happening. In fact, it’s said the only reason their show crashed to a halt was because a furiously windmilling Townsend broke his axe just before sun up.

Until this 1996 release, an appearance by Jimi Hendrix (he of ignited-guitar fame) at the same ’70 festival was the only one available in its entirety. The Who, we hear on this long-delayed digital remix, didn’t need accelerant to set their instruments afire back then.

“Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970” is a concert of shuddering energy, equal parts speed, raw fury and rangy emotion — with none of the weighty pretensions that eventually wrecked a great rock band.

Share this:
Close