Live at The Isle of Wight Festival 2004 (2 CD/DVD)

The Who

Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Seemingly from the moment they walked off the stage, The Who’s performance at 1970’s Isle of Wight Festival was inscribed in rock legend: one of the most powerful live bands in the world delivering one of its greatest performances ever before a massive crowd of true believers. In fact, you could say the band broke the festival; with third-year crowds estimated at 650,000, Parliament shortly thereafter passed a law banning large-scale concerts on the island, a law that kept the festival dark for the next 32 years.

Finally, in 2002, promoter John Giddings helped convince the authorities to amend the “1971 Isle of Wight Act” so that he could stage a festival for 10,000 fans. By the time The Who made a triumphant return to headline the reborn festival two years later, the crowd ceiling had been raised to a more generous 35,000. Of course, by then, the band the fans were coming to see was fundamentally different than it had been in 1970; drummer Keith Moon had passed away in 1978, followed in 2003 by bassist John Entwhistle.

The Who in 2004 were a newly recast six-piece, with Roger Daltrey (vocals) and Pete Townshend (guitar and vocals) supported by John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards, Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, and Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitars and backing vocals. John Entwhistle’s death the year before still loomed large in everyone’s minds; for some time in 2003 it had been less than certain that the band would continue without either founding member of its rhythm section. 

But continue they did, and by the 2004 festival the new lineup had begun to gel into a tight unit, ferociously committed to doing justice to the music that had brought them together. The end result, while it could never match up to the category five hurricane that was their 1970 performance, is plenty impressive for what it is—a middle-aged band down to two original members, but still full of grit and fire while delivering one classic track after another.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Walking on stage with no introduction wanted or needed, they blaze straight into “I Can’t Explain,” attacking it with a fervor that sets the entire crowd pogoing as Townshend windmills and Daltrey twirls his mike. Roger and Pete both appear healthy, fit and in good voice, and the band proves their chops immediately as they dive headlong into “Substitute” and then “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.” Time for a rest yet? Not exactly. Next up is a blazing performance of “Who Are You,” with Townshend wrenching notes from his guitar as if wrestling a python.

Following a lively triple-shot of songs from Who’s Next—“Behind Blue Eyes,” “Bargain” and “Baba O’Riley”—they delve into the softer midsection of the show, mixing a few favorite deeper cuts (“The Punk And The Godfather,” “5:15,” and an acoustic mini-set of “Drowned” and “Naked Eye”), with more familiar fare (“Love Reign O’er Me,” “Eminence Front,” “You Better You Bet”) and “Real Good Looking Boy,” one of two new cuts recorded for their 2003 collection Then And Now.

The show proper ends with a bit of a stutter step. The furious thrash of “My Generation” is followed by new track “Old Red Wine,” whose energetic performance by the band doesn’t alter the fact that the largely non-plussed audience doesn’t know the song. Recovering quickly from this misstep, the band swaggers straight into the cathartic rumble and thunder of set-closer “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The generous first encore is an extended Tommy medley that includes all or part of “Pinball Wizard,” “Amazing Journey,” “Sparks,” ”See Me, Feel Me,” and ”Listening to You,” while the second encore finds the band offering a crowd-pleasing flashback with an extended, jamming take on classic 1968 single “Magic Bus.”

The performance is far from perfect, with a number of minor flubs apparent, up to and including Daltrey aborting the harmonica outro to “Baba O’Riley” after realizing he’s picked up the wrong harp, that’s been tuned for a different song. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the very good; this set chronicles a wounded but determined band in the process of reconfirming that they still have what it takes. These songs were written by a man—Townshend—desperate to prove something to the world, and on this night he and The Who play them as they should be played, with reckless abandon and unquenchable fire.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2017 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Rock Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.