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The Who: Live in Texas '75

Doug Collette By

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The Who

Live in Texas '75

Eagle Rock

2012

In their performing prime, between 1969 and 1971, The Who were the most thrilling performers rock had ever known (and may remain so). The original quartet remained exciting through 1975 when The Who: Live in Texas '75 was filmed, though in the flood of kinetic energy exploding from the band at this point in their career, there are, in retrospect, hints they had already reached their peak. What were once wholly natural theatrics began to look forced and, perhaps not coincidentally, there's a discernible lack of genuine joie de vivre, the likes of which once galvanized their stage presence.

The occasional use of visual effects seemingly randomly applied here in this film are as redundant as The Who's use of laser lights, introduced on this tour; forward thinking as it was at the time, equal perhaps to guitarist/composer Pete Townshend's use of synthesizers on Who's Next (Decca, 1971)), the effect would've been nothing less than redundant during the quartet's hey day. Vocalist Roger Daltrey's posing was as purposeful as bassist John Entwistle's stolid stance was stage left, in stark contrast to the whirling dervish that was drummer Keith Moon and the equally spectacular stunts of Townshend as he windmilled on his instrument leaping about the stage just a hair's breadth from being out of control. There's a palpable sense here of the group pushing themselves begrudgingly through their immediately recognizable motions, though the level of intensity elevates, not surprisingly, during the extended segment from Tommy (Decca,1969).

The combination of precision and power is what distinguished The Who live—hear Live at Leeds (Decca, 1970)—and it earmarked this performance in the Lone Star state as well, though not to such overwhelming cumulative effect. In contrast to previous prolonged tours, the band didn't have the focus provided by such hallmarks as the rock opera, while precious little of the then just released The Who by Numbers (MCA, 1975) appears within the set, Daltrey almost derisively introduces "Drowned" as the last remnant of Quadrophenia (MCA, 1973), while non-album numbers such as "Join Together" and "Naked Eye" are shadows of their former insightful selves.

Chris Roberts' essay in the DVD booklet hints at some of the mechanics and misfires that brought The Who to this point in their career, but the superficiality of the prose is in keeping with the videography of Live in Texas '75. A single camera angel stage right is arguably ideal for capturing Daltrey and Townshend simultaneously, but that relegates bassist John Entwistle almost invisible for the duration, a serious shortfall as his static stoic presence provided such stark contrast to his partners, including Keith Moon who, though still playing with his own inimitable force, no longer ignited such a explosive chemistry with the guitarist as depicted on The Who Live at The Isle of Wight 1970 (Eagle Rock, 2006).

Authorized by The Who, but not presented with the scrupulous attention to detail of their album reissues (though the sound was overseen by Jon Astley, who worked on remastered CDs, no one in the band contributed in any discernible way), The Who Live in Texas '75 is nevertheless worth watching because so little comparable content is available, but more notably, the group is one of the foremost figures in the history of contemporary rock.

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