Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Who: Live At Leeds

Everything good you've heard about Live At Leeds is true;  everything bad you've heard is a lie.  It's essential.

Essential, but oddly enough, I think pretty much any version would do.  I haven't sprung for the recent 4-disc Leeds'n'Hull binge, and I probably won't.  I never got the old 2-disc "complete" Leeds, either.  I find that the 1995 expanded 1-disc set is brilliant, but even then, the tracks I always go back to were (mostly) on the original vinyl.

And they're mostly the covers.  "Young Man Blues," which - if hard flexed cord-tight muscle had a sound, it would be it.  It's a perfect example of how the Who could punch you in the face harder than any metal or punk group could.  It's not about volume so much as it is about rhythm and attitude.  (Love the sonic ambiance on this record, too:  you can just feel the cavernous space of the hall, the draft coming in through the doors, the heat of the spotlights.)

And "Shakin' All Over," which proves that, well, maybe it is about volume as much as it is about rhythm and attitude, but only if volume is made not by turning the amps up to 10, but by pounding your instruments as hard as you can.  Like, Entwistle mashes his bass strings so hard that his notes have the percussive power of a piano.  His fingers are hammers. 

And throughout - to continue the muscle idea - the instrumentalists play with the suppleness and unity of a single limb, bones muscle and sinew all working together.  Not mechanically, but biologically - the Who's sound, live, was incredibly human.

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