The Who: At Kilburn 1977
In 1977, while Jeff Stein was compiling The Kids Are Alright, his excellent documentary on legendary British rockers the Who, the filmmaker felt he lacked strong film footage of several classic Who tunes and wanted performances that would bring the picture up to date. With this in mind, Stein arranged for the Who to play a show to be filmed for the movie, and six 35mm film cameras were on hand when the band took the stage at the State Kilburn Theatre on December 15, 1977. However, Pete Townshend was openly disappointed with the Who's show that day (even saying on camera "This wasn't f--king worth filming, Stein -- might as well send the cameramen home" midway through their set), and they shot another concert several months later that was used in the movie. However, more than three decades later the Kilburn State Theatre set has finally been made available on the DVD release The Who at Kilburn 1977. Compared to the Who's best work on film, The Who at Kilburn 1977 does capture the band on a relative off night -- Keith Moon is clearly out of shape and has trouble keeping up with the band, while John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey appear to be a bit out of practice -- but Townshend is on fire throughout the show, and this footage confirms that the Who were a powerfully exciting act even when they weren't delivering one hundred percent. The Who at Kilburn 1977 has been given a widescreen transfer to disc, letterboxed at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors. The original film elements are practically spotless and the depth and clarity of the 35mm film image is truly impressive, as is the vivid but realistic color balance. The audio (which was recorded using a 16-track mobile truck) has been mastered in three formats, Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and DTS 5.1 Surround. The stereo mix sounds tighter and more powerful than the 5.1 version, but either way the results are impressive and capture the force of the Who on stage with admirable accuracy. The performances are in English, with no subtitles or multiple language options. As a bonus, this package comes with a second disc featuring another show from the Who's archives -- a December 1969 performance at the London Coliseum Theater in which the band performed the recently-released rock opera Tommy in full along with a set of their bet known tunes. The 1969 show was filmed in 16mm by a small crew who didn't use any additional lighting; consequently, the image is often dark and grainy and at times the band is all but invisible, while the print is in rough shape and there are bits where the editors have to make do with "stylized" substitute footage when both cameramen ran out of film. But the Who are in excellent form in this bonus gig, and while the audio is sometimes boomy and distorted, it inarguably captures a more interesting concert than the one on disc one. (It's also presented in widescreen, with both stereo and surround options.) The Who at Kilburn 1977 delivers two flawed but fascinating shows from one of the greatest bands in rock history, and serious Who fans will certainly want this in their collection.