The Who
Live at Leeds


5.0
classic

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
June 17th, 2011 | 60 replies


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The live record by which all others must be judged.

When The Who played Leeds University on February 14, 1970, something magical happened. Or at least, this is what many rock fans choose to believe. More than 40 years after its initial release, Live at Leeds is still often cited as the pivotal rock ‘n roll live album. Originally a 6-song LP, its earliest version was already well-capable of displaying the band’s unrivalled energy on stage, but was later expanded into two different editions to include more of the set, which included an entire performance of Tommy. The full rock opera is only available on the deluxe edition, and while it is undeniably great, Leeds’ well-filled single disc take contains all the essence of its genius. By this time it may have become a cliché to write, but Live at Leeds was The Who at their peak and a defining moment in popular music. At the time, it rocked harder and better than everything else.

Even in their early days, The Who became notorious for their rebellious behaviour on stage (smashing of the guitars, etc.), which contrasted sharply with the more innocent sound of their recordings in the second half of the 60’s. Tommy proved to be the single most important step in their claim to fame, massively increasing demand for the band, that achieved an increasingly powerful stage presence. In 1970, there was no more pop for this little group. Live at Leeds is a pure-blooded fury of rock music that just isn’t played this way anymore. As for The Who, they quite effectively proved to be the best live band ever.

Setting the tone is the classic Entwistle tune Heaven and Hell, which’ explosive entry and straightforward, highly amusing lyrics, sung with gusto in an on-and-off unison between John and Daltrey, may already have convinced you this is the greatest live record ever in just a minute’s time. With forceful immediacy, rock’s greatest rhythm section (R.I.P.) is making very damn clear they’re more than a mere drive behind the sound. That bass seems a force of nature, never leaving the front, and Keith Moon honours his reputation as lunatic behind the kit, showing incredible pace, skill, and lasting energy throughout such a lengthy set. He’s the reason we wish this had been filmed as well.

It was also at this point that Daltrey gained his gruffer, manlier voice, perhaps the most important feature in the band’s transformation. As the lead of the sound, it is him and Townshend, who fanatically lays down chord after chord and audibly backs with his own singing, who make from the original mould of their pop singles a collection of seriously rocking tunes. Piece by piece, the renditions of I Can’t Explain, Substitute, Happy Jack and I’m a Boy are brilliant improvements. The same goes for A Quick One, While He’s Away, Townshend’s first stab at a rock opera which eventually led to Tommy. Whereas the studio version can be called sloppy and unconvincing, this superb performance wipes the dust with it, seeing the band employing different vocal roles, seamlessly switching sections, and conveying a real storytelling ability. What has made Leeds’ reputation so impeccable is that this kind of improvement wasn’t limited to a handful of songs. Nearly everything that you find here is a definitive take.

The covers, out of the older rock and roll archives, also remain an integral part of the record. Live covers, especially those of well-known songs, can be typically great but rarely add anything to the original, or the concert, for that matter. With the Who and these four, things couldn’t be any different. They were all given an electrifying, firm 1970 update, the band completely making them their own. Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues and Johnny Kidd’s Shakin’ All Over developed into loud and inspiring jams indeed.

That same excellent jamming takes place during the final stage of Live at Leeds. If the roaring opening and equally impressive middle part didn’t blow you away enough already, The Who finished rocking the place with a 16-minute My Generation, growing into a medley with themes from Tommy, and perfectly slow-building closer Magic Bus, including two mighty fine harmonica solos leading into that final finale. And when the last seconds fade away, you realize how hard The Who rocked Leeds that fateful day. Then you realize how hard they’ve just been rocking you, and that this deserves every bit of exaggerated praise and worship it may have received. You have not heard it? Then you have not truly heard The Who. Live at Leeds is the live record by which all others must be judged.

On top of the sky is a place where you go if you've done nothing wrong/
If you've done nothing wrong.
And down in the ground is a place where you go if you've been a bad boy/
If you've been a bad boy.
Why can't we have eternal life/
And never die/Never die?
In the place up above you grow feather wings and you fly round and round/
With a harp singing hymns.
And down in the ground you grow horns and a tail and you carry a fork/
And moan and wail.
Why can't we have eternal life/And never die/
Never die?

R.I.P. Keith Moon (1946 – 1978)
R.I.P. John Entwistle ( 1944 – 2002)




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
June 17th 2011


8526 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Those who guessed it by paying attention to my avatar, you get a cookie.

Tyrael
June 17th 2011


21005 Comments


Great band, great review, great Nag. Pos.
Any new Pogject reviews coming up? =]

clercqie
June 17th 2011


6515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn, missed a cookie :/



Fantastic album though

Nagrarok
June 17th 2011


8526 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great band, great review, great Nag. Pos.

Any new Pogject reviews coming up? =]




Thanks Tyrael, in fact you just missed one!

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2011


25476 Comments


Excellent job Nag, pos'd.

Digging: Thee Oh Sees - Live In San Francisco

Nagrarok
June 17th 2011


8526 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Jamie. It's good to finally have done that 200th. All you guys get this though, any self-respecting rock fan needs to.

Tyrael
June 17th 2011


21005 Comments


you just missed one

Oh dear, I will be checking that out right away!

clercqie
June 17th 2011


6515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Question: this or the original 6-song release? Which do you guys prefer?

MUNGOLOID
June 17th 2011


4446 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

the more Live At Leeds, the better.

BigHans
June 17th 2011


27927 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great 200th Nag, obviously album is a classic

ReturnToRock
June 17th 2011


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The sequence of 6/7/8/9 ALONE makes this worth a purchase!



But then there's also Tattoo...

ReturnToRock
June 17th 2011


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh and congrats on 200, you'll be catching up to me in no time!

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2011


7479 Comments


Fantastic review. I should really get into this band sometime (God my musical breadth is so ridiculously narrow).

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2011


7479 Comments


Oh and happy 200 LOL.

clercqie
June 17th 2011


6515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I should really get into this band sometime




This is the place to start (in case you didn't guess it already - small chance)

Jethro42
June 17th 2011


14117 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Congrats on your 200th quality review, super Nag! My cookie is to share haha. Live at Leeds is an absolute essential of mine when I hit the road for long distances. I'm a proud owner of the 1995 Compact Disc Reissue since it came out, and I'm not sure how I didn't rate it yet while I did for the deluxe edition. Fixed.

A little omission of yours at the 4th para; Substitute[/i]

Once again, review is very well written, as I expected.

Two Hundred...Party!!!

KILL
June 17th 2011


77852 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this band fuckin rules

BigHans
June 17th 2011


27927 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bollocks

Psychopathologist
June 17th 2011


1922 Comments


only heard whos next, sucked so bad

clercqie
June 17th 2011


6515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ lolwut?



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