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Image Entertainment presents
The Who and Special Guests: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2001)

"So sad about us."
- Paul Weller and Pete Townshend

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: October 11, 2001

Stars: Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, John "Rabbit" Bundrick, Zak Starkey
Other Stars: Bryan Adams, Noel Gallagher, Kelly Jones, Kennedy, Eddie Vedder, Paul Weller
Director: Dick Carruthers

Manufacturer: Ritek Global Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (foul language)
Run Time: 02h:23m:58s
Release Date: September 25, 2001
UPC: 014381065923
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C+B-A+ B+

DVD Review

I've always been a big Who fan, which is why I asked to review this disc. This is also why I was a bit surprised when I mentioned this disc to my friend and he said, "Ugh, aging rockers. I think they should have a mandatory retirement age for Rock 'n' Rollers." Still enthused over the above-average and energetic performance from Paul McCartney on his Live At The Cavern Club disc, I figured that The Who, who were always known for their powerful stage shows, would blow that performance out of the water.

How wrong I was. From the opening number, I Can't Explain, I could tell something was missing. It took me a while to get it, but then it hit me like a Mack truck with faulty brakes and an inebriated driver. This wasn't The Who I was watching. This was three guys who used to be in The Who trying to relive their glory days, and I wasn't buying it. I think what Pete and the gang needed was some common sense. If you were a member of a band that was primarily known for its explosive live shows, would you try to recreate that thirty years on, as your arthritis and hemorrhoids set in? I know I wouldn't. There's just no way you can compete with yourself once you're past your prime. Who would want to watch this when they can pop in their copy of Live At The Isle Of Wight or The Kids Are Alright? I may get venomous emails for this, but if I had to choose between this set, with DTS sound and multi-angle extras, and a videotape of The Who performing in the early 1970s, I'd go for the latter without a moment's hesitation.

The show isn't consistently bad. There are some highlights, such as rousing renditions of Pinball Wizard, Relay, 5:15, and especially Won't Get Fooled Again, where Daltrey gives such a primal scream that it seems to pour all the energy out of his body and into the microphone. Also, Paul Weller dueting with Pete on So Sad About Us and Kennedy lending some mind-bending violin to Baba O'Riley are also memorable. The highlight of the whole show is Pete doing solo acoustic versions of Drowned and Heart to Hang Onto, both of which rival the album versions in intensity and effectiveness. While I can't suggest you buy this disc, if you can rent it, check out those two acoustic numbers. They're magical.

And with the highs come the lows. The first blunder comes with the second song of the set, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere. That song was just a weak Kinks-style rewrite when it was first released, and time has certainly not been kind to it. While I Can't Explain is a classic and a classic Who concert-opener to boot, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere pulls the show to a grinding halt. Not a good way to start things off. The next major blunder comes in The Kids Are Alright. Once a catchy description of teenage British life, it is ruined here by the inclusion of a new, trite middle-section where Pete looks at his kids and future generations. The final insult comes when they have Bryan Adams sing Behind Blue Eyes. Now, I can think of some Who songs where Adams throaty pipes would more or less fit, but Behind Blue Eyes has to be sung by someone with something approaching a saccharine-sweet voice, to set up the contrast detailed in the lyrics. And while Roger's voice isn't what it used to be, I'm positive he could have still pulled it off. The songs in-between the best and the worst performances usually start off well, but soon degenerate into aimless jamming that only superficially resembles the original song. The Who sounded tired by the time their final studio album came out, so why I expected them to sound like The Who of old here is beyond me.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This transfer is good, but not great. The show depends on a lot of extremely powerful lights, so quite often things look washed out. When things are clear, colors are balanced and look solid overall. The film seems to be framed for 1.78:1, so heads aren't get cut off (thankfully), and really lend a more cinematic look, which is a plus. It looked like there was some artifacting going on with the strings of John's bass, but that could have been the strings reflecting the lights. Regardless, it was distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This DVD comes with three mixes, a DTS mix, a DD5.1 mix, and a DD2.0 mix. As far as I can tell, the DTS and DD5.1 mixes sound exactly the same. This is the first time I've experienced this phenomenon with an Image concert DVD, and it's a shame. That being said, both mixes sound excellent. You feel as if you're in with the rest of the audience, seeing The Who right there. There was a noticeable echo, but I assumed that was to create the feeling of being a large venue, and made it seem more authentic. Also, the mix is LOUD, and with The Who it really shouldn't be any other way. As to be expected, the 2.0 mix sounds flat and confined in comparison.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 24 cues and remote access
7 Multiple Angles with remote access
8 Featurette(s)
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:17s

Extra Extras:
  1. Let's See Action video/Backstage Footage
Extras Review: On the second disc of this set we find the extras, the first being a little bit of info about the Teenage Cancer Trust. It starts with Roger talking about what the Trust does (builds cancer wards designed specifically for teenagers, who previously got put in with small children or senior citizens). It then shows Roger talking to Eddie Vedder about what The Who has done to help the Trust, and finally, it shows a clip from the concert where Roger gives the head of the Trust a check for one million pounds. It's actually pretty moving. After that we move to a multi-angle version of Pinball Wizard (complete with your choice of DTS, DD5.1, or DD2.0 sound mixes). This is one of the best uses of the multi-angle feature I've ever seen. Using up the whole screen (on a widescreen TV), you have the different angle views in small windows going down the left side and bottom of the screen. The rest of the screen is the selected angle in a bigger window. Considering the performance is good, it's fun to go back and watch one angle through the whole song, and then once you've seen them all, mix them together to create your own music video. After that we have a boring music video for Let's See Action (one of The Who's most underrated songs that unfortunately is not done justice here), which uses some sped-up footage of building the sets. And then we have seven different clips of rehearsals. These are interesting to watch, as it shows the guests interacting with The Who in ways you don't see onstage. The best is Paul Weller's clip, where he picks a song to do with Pete, and then finds it too difficult to do, so he switches it to So Sad About Us. All in all, a nice package of goodies.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

What can I say? The Who no longer have it. While this disc does have some pleasures hidden away in its coffers, it isn't worth wading through all the junk to get to them. Not even an excellent DTS/DD5.1 sound mix and some cool rehearsal footage can make this disc worth a purchase. Hold onto those old VHS copies of The Kids Are Alright, or, if you must have your Who fix on DVD, go pick up Quadrophenia.


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