Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 3, 2015)
To commemorate the Who’s 50th anniversary, surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey hit the road for an extensive tour. Called “The Who Hits 50”, this trek started in late 2014 and will continue through spring 2016.
Shot in June 2015, Live in Hyde Park finds the Who mid-tour. Because the last Who album came out in 2006, the show mostly acts as a “greatest hits” presentation.
This means we get no songs from 2006’s Endless Wire and the newest track comes from It’s Hard the final album before their semi-split in 1982. That release offers “Eminence Front”, and 1981’s Face Dances brings us “You Better You Bet”.
Off of 1978’s Who Are You, we get the title track. The show skips 1975’s The Who By Numbers, but 1973’s Quadrophenia offers “I’m One” and “Love Reign O’er Me”.
We find the 1972 single “Join Together” and then get tracks from 1971’s Who’s Next: “Baba O’Riley”, “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Bargain” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. 1969’s Tommy presents “Amazing Journey/Sparks”, “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me Feel Me/Listening to You”.
Off of 1967’s Who Sell Out, we locate “I Can See For Miles”, and that year also gives us the non-album track “Pictures of Lily”. 1965’s My Generation boasts the title song and “The Kids Are Alright”. Finally, we find “I Can’t Explain”, the band’s debut single from 1964.
I first saw the Who live during their so-called “Farewell Tour” in 1982. I think I enjoyed the show well enough, but I really don’t remember a lot about it.
Since then I’ve seen the Who maybe 10 times and my response always seems the same. I like the concerts well enough but they never make a big impression. Known for the intensity of their live performances back in the 1960s and 1970s, I’ve not witnessed anything like that from 1982 to date.
Hyde Park doesn’t alter that impression. Of course, I don’t expect men in their seventies to show the same energy they possessed in their 20s, but I think they could muster more enthusiasm than they demonstrate here.
In particular, Daltrey comes across as tired. I won’t say he lacks investment in the concert, but Daltrey fails to give the songs much oomph. Vocally, he sounds decent – not close to his peak, but better than he’d been for a while. His lack of verve becomes a drag on the concert, though.
Townshend fares better, though not as much as I’d prefer. Like Daltrey, his vocals remain competent – he’s lost some range but still sounds okay.
Pete tries to muster some of the old fire and energy via his guitar playing and his comments, but it all seems a bit forced. Early on, Townshend makes a remark that he never wanted to be a member of the Who and still doesn’t, a statement that should inspire eye-rolls. For a guy who wants to get away from a band, he’s done a pretty horrible job. You’re worth a fortune, Pete – if you want to quit the Who, quit already!
Across the board, Hyde Park presents adequate versions of the songs. It’s nice to get a few rarities such as “Pictures of Lily”, but most of the show gives us the same old same old, and I think that tedium becomes apparent. Again, the songs don’t sound bad, but they fail to offer much life.
Though the Blu-ray usually concentrates on the concert, it occasionally offers interviews. We primarily hear from Daltrey and Townshend, but we also get remarks from musicians Iggy Pop, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr. None of these prove to be especially illuminating, and they cause annoying intrusions during the show.
Otherwise, director Chris Rule represents the concert fairly well. The presentation can indulge a bit too much quick cutting at times, but this trend doesn’t go to an extreme. For the most part, we get a fairly representative view of the performance.
I just wish I found the concert at hand to offer a more invigorating experience. Do I expect the current version of the Who to hearken back to their on-stage glory days? No, but I’d like to see a band with more verve and energy than we find during this mostly lackluster show.
Stick around through the end credits for an acoustic version of “My Generation” by Iggy Pop and a short interview comment from Daltrey.