DVD Review: Pete Townshend's Deep End -- Face The Face

Pete Townshend's Deep End gives an explosive performance on Rockpalast in 1986.
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In 1986, Pete Townshend was in the midst of a series of shows for his concept album White City: A Novel. For the performances, he assembled an all-star band known as Pete Townshend's Deep End, many of who played on the album, including David Gilmour on guitar and vocals and Simon Phillips on drums. On January 29, 1986, the group made an appearance on the famed German TV show, Rockpalast. Long available as a bootleg, the show is finally being released officially as a DVD/CD set titled Pete Townshend's Deep End -- Face The Face.

The show mixes White City tracks with songs from The Who and Townshend's other solo records. A David Gilmour solo track and covers of "I Put A Spell On You" and "Night Train" fill out the rest of the set. Townshend opens in familiar fashion, however with "Won't Get Fooled Again." Townshend opens the song on acoustic guitar backed by Peter Hope-Evans on harmonica, before the full band kicks in with Gilmour on electric guitar and a powerful horn section. The rendition remains faithful to the original while updating it in exciting ways. Townshend for his part is animated and in fine voice.

Hope-Evans shines on harmonica again on the bluesy "Secondhand Love." Townshend gives a gritty vocal on the track, which is dripping in groove and attitude and somewhat of a departure from Townshend's more familiar style with The Who. Another White City track, the scorching "Give Blood" follows. Gilmour's intricate guitar work and Phillips' powerhouse drumming drive this potent track. Townshend seems energized by his killer backing band, and who wouldn't be?

Gilmour assumes the front man role on the similarly driving "Blue Light," his guitar awash in echo and delay. Townshend is content to offer rhythm guitar support as Gilmour and the horn section steal the show. Townshend returns to the mic for an emotional "I Put A Spell On You," punctuated by Gilmour's bluesy leads. Townshend does his best Screamin' Jay Hawkins impression and while he may not be quite as over the top, he nearly matches his intensity all the same.

After an intense "Rough Boys," the show closes with a fun cover of "Night Train." All the band members get to shine on this killer cover, with Townshend emulating the horn section in air guitar fashion and Gilmour and Phillips giving great solos respectively.

The video is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio and, for being over 30 years old, looks great. Audio options include DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 and Stereo. The audio is well mixed and sounds full and powerful. The whole show, minus "I Put A Spell On You," also features on the CD.

Pete Townshend's Deep End was a short-lived project and while Townshend never intended to do an extensive tour with this band, one wonders what they could have achieved if they had. Pete Townshend's Deep End -- Face The Face captures a brief, yet electric moment in time and is essential viewing for Townshend fans.