The Isle of Wight Festival has taken on a legendary status over the years -- the early incarnations, particularly the 1969 and 1970 ones -- which were attended by roughly 150,000 and 600,000 people respectively in particular. Those two festivals included memorable performances by The Who among others. It is only natural then, that when the festival was revived in 2002, that The Who would be invited back and, in 2004, they were. Many years older, and down to two original members -- Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey -- but no less explosive live, the band delivered an inspired show, which makes up the new Blu-ray The Who -- Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004.
The show opens with a trio of songs from its mid 1960s Mod period, "I Can't Explain," "Substitute," and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere." Daltrey is in fine voice, giving confident, swaggering vocals and the band, which includes Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards and Townshend's brother Simon on rhythm guitar and vocals is clearly into it. Townshend, aggressively windmilling from the outset gives a blistering lead on "I Can't Explain." Simon Townshend serves as a secret weapon here and throughout, filling out the guitar sound, helping on backing vocals (His vocal similarities to his brother help) and offstage as the producer of the two new tracks included later in the set. These songs were nearly 40 years old at the time and the band offers them up as if they were still in their 20s.
After a heavy "Who Are You," another trio of classic tracks, this time from Who's Next, follows. The group slows the pace with a fine "Behind Blue Eyes" that shows Daltrey effortlessly switching between the gentle delivery of the first part of the song and the grittier ending. The song (and concert in general) is well filmed, showing many close-ups of Daltrey's face as he sings. A powerful "Bargain" follows, with Starkey doing his best Keith Moon, aggressively bashing away behind the drums. The crowd erupts as the signature synthesizer riff that opens "Baba O'Riley" begins. There are many excellent crowd shots as they clap along during the extended intro and light show. Daltrey leads his troops into battle with a powerful lead vocal and strong harmonica in this, one of many highlights in the performance.
A muscular rendition of "The Punk And The Godfather" highlights the Quadrophenia portion of the set with Daltrey hitting most of the high notes in this difficult song to perform. Townshend takes lead vocals on the latter-day hit "Eminence Front" with the band, including Daltrey on additional rhythm guitar, extending the song's killer opening groove as a platform for Townshend to solo. The song bookended the band's original run and showed Townshend had lost none of his songwriting mojo.
The show was not entirely all classic songs however. The group had two new songs at the time -- "Real Good Looking Boy" and "Old Red Wine" -- and both are offered up here. The former incorporates elements of "Can't Help Falling In Love" in a decidedly Who-like fashion while the latter, a tribute to late bassist John Entwistle, is a poignant and fitting tribute to The Ox. An extended, bluesy "Magic Bus" closes out the show, reminding the crowd that few, if any, bands can touch The Who live when they are on and into it as they certainly were here.
The video is presented in 1080i High Definition, looks great and is well filmed. Audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. The mix is full and powerful. A two-CD set of the entire performance is also included.
34 years after their last Isle Of Wight performance, The Who returned and conquered the stage once again. The band is in fine form throughout and very much seem to be enjoying themselves, making The Who -- Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004 a worthwhile memento of a killer gig.