While the Who have had their fair share of studio triumphs, they have always been known, first and foremost, for their powerful live performances. In the band’s prime, on a good night, they could blow anyone off the stage. While on tour for their 1975 release, The Who By Numbers, fans in Houston, TX, were treated to such an aural assault. Fortunately, the cameras were rolling and the show is now available as The Who – Live In Texas ’75.
After a bit of tuning up, the band launch into a ferocious version of their Mod-era classic, “Substitute.” Pete Townshend, clad in all white attacks his Les Paul with an intensity arguably besting the studio version while Keith Moon drives the song with his unique, powerful drumming style. Roger Daltrey commands the stage, from his powerful vocals to his mic twirling, showing why he is considered one of the greatest rock front men ever. The band doesn’t let up for air, delivering an equally impressive version of “I Can’t Explain.” It’s as strong an opening to a rock concert as one can get.
After the opening tracks from 1965, the band tackles more recent fair, delving into 1975’s The Who By Numbers with the single “Squeeze Box.” Daltrey is in strong voice in this version, which is more muscular than its studio counterpart. He is similarly confident in a strong version of “Baba O’Riley,” strutting to the front of the stage to deliver his excellent vocals. By the time Townshend windmills his way through the song’s trademark power chords, the audience is hooked.
Bassist John Entwistle gets in on the action with his trademark “Boris The Spider,” which Townshend introduces as having “very weird chords,” to which Moon replies, “a very weird person!” the song was a fun crowd favorite and yet another reminder of how much Entwistle and Moon are missed.
The show is notable for its inclusion of the seldom-played “However Much I Booze,” a song that Townshend says he wrote, “The night he gave up drinking.” Townshend gives a strong vocal on the song deemed too personal by Daltrey to sing on the record.
Taking advantage of the recent movie version of Tommy, the band plays a lengthy suite of songs from that album during the show. Moon introduces it as “something written by myself, with additional help from Pete Townshend and John Entwistle,” but later adds, “Pete Townshend takes all the credit because he’s taller and more aggressive – and he’s got a beard.” The crowd laughed, but when he announced that it was Tommy they’d be playing, they roared in approval, and the band offered potent versions of many of its best-loved songs, including a fiery “Pinball Wizard.” The band closes the main set with one of their hardest rocking songs, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Daltrey offers a blood-curdling final scream that at least matches the studio version, even if the camera angle shows Moon for much of it. It’s one of the greatest songs of the classic rock era and the band nails it here.
While Live in Texas ’75 was available for years as a bootleg, it was never available in this quality. The picture is several generations lower than any circulating bootleg and features remastered audio by Jon Astley, making for the best possible version of this concert. In addition, while previous bootleg releases were missing eight seconds of audio from “Squeeze Box,” they have been restored here. While this restoration is not quite seamless, if one is not paying close attention, it comes and goes with little disruption to the show.
As a live act, The Who had few rivals. The sheer power of their shows was matched only by their musicality. There’s a reason that musician’s musicians and the punks loved The Who equally. This is on display in full effect on The Who – Live In Texas ’75.