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Chris Rule
Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend
Writing Credits:

In this 100th show in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust, The Who performed their nearly 50 year old landmark rock opera Tommy in its entirety along with a second set of 7 greatest hits at London's historic Royal Albert Hall.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $21.98
Release Date: 10/13/17

• Behind the Scenes Footage
• Screen Footage
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer

The Who: Live at the Royal Albert Hall [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 18, 2017)

Often regarded as the Who’s finest album, 1969’s Tommy becomes the focal point of an April 2017 concert. The result shows up here as Tommy: Live at the Royal Albert Hall.

Done as a benefit for the Teenage Cancer Trust, the 25 songs from Tommy become the dominant aspect of the setlist. In the encore, though, we get a sampling of other Who tracks.

For that segment, we find 1965’s “I Can’t Explain” and 1967’s “I Can See For Miles”. We also locate 1971’s “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, 1972’s “Join Together”, 1973’s “Love, Reign O’er Me” and 1978’s “Who Are You”.

That’s a decent sampling of better-known Who songs, but you can find those on most other Who concert releases. The attraction here comes from Tommy, an album guitarist Pete Townshend claims the Who never played in its entirety.

Based on my research, he’s correct – sort of. During the Who’s 1969/1970 tours, they played massive chunks of Tommy and made it the focal point of the shows, but it doesn’t appear they ever played the whole thing.

In addition, the Who’s 1989 “reunion tour” also focused on Tommy to a considerable degree, but they didn’t perform it in its entirety. That’s true even for a special LA show that included almost all of the album – but not quite everything.

Since 1989, the Who occasionally focused on Quadrophenia, as it became the focus of tours in 1996 and 2013. (This release’s promo materials claim the Who toured behind Tommy in 2002, but that’s wrong.)

That emphasis on the 1969 album alone makes the RAH show a special one, and the Who represent Tommy pretty well. Granted, this obviously isn’t the same band that made the album 48 years ago. Original members Keith Moon and John Entwistle are long dead, and neither Townshend nor singer Roger Daltrey boast the performance skills they showed in their youth.

Actually, the most obvious decline comes from Townshend’s vocals. His high-end range has fallen off the face of the earth, so he requires backing guitarist – and brother – Simon Townshend to hit those notes for him.

That said, Pete doesn’t sound bad when he sings – heck, he’s much better than at the 2016 show I attended where he could barely croak through the tunes – and he covers his guitar parts fine. This may not be the fiery Pete of the 1970s, but he does well.

As for Daltrey, he also shows his age, but not to a terrible degree. Daltrey’s voice dropped off fairly significantly over the years, but I believe he got surgery a while back, and that seems to have helped. Again, you won’t get circa 1973 Daltrey from the vocals, and he also suffers from some loss of range, but Roger sounds about as good as he has in decades and covers the songs nicely.

With a professional band behind them, Daltrey and Townshend manage a more than respectable version of Tommy. I admit I’ve never loved that album, as I think 1967’s Sell Out, 1971’s Who’s Next and 1973’s Quadrophenia are all significantly more satisfying.

Still, I can’t quibble with its importance, and I do like the album – but I “just” like it. There’s no passion there for me.

I do respect Tommy and think the concert represents it well. Nothing here stands out as stellar, but the 2017 show offers a solid turn from the Who.

Director Chris Rule shows good restraint. The program lacks any cloying visual affectations, and Rule makes no attempt to turn this into a 123-minute music video.

At the start of the program, we get interview comments from Townshend and Daltrey, and I feared these would occasionally interrupt the concert. That became a nuisance in 2015’s Who Live in Hyde Park product, and since Rule directed it as well, I worried the trend would continue here.

Happily, it doesn’t, so Rule concentrates on the concert. Editing seems fairly sedate, and this allows us to enjoy the show without cheap, tacky attempts to “enliven” the proceeding. Rule lets the Who entertain us all on their own.

How much the concert satisfies you will likely depend on how much you like Tommy, of course. As mentioned, it’s not a favorite of mine, but I think this show provides a solid performance of it.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

The Who: Tommy Live at the Royal Albert Hall appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this was a quality presentation.

For the most part, sharpness satisfied. Occasional wider shots looked a smidgen soft, but those remained the exception, as the majority of the show appeared well-defined. I noticed no problems with shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to materialize. No source flaws appeared either.

In terms of palette, Tommy went with subdued tones. Except for drummer Zak Starkey’s shirt, the band wore dark clothes that lacked visual pep, and lighting followed suit. The lights added some variety but remained low-key, so the Blu-ray reproduced the colors in a concise manner.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, while low-light shots offered good clarity. The disc presented the concert well.

As for the show’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it also suited the material. As expected, the mix emphasized the forward spectrum, where we found strong stereo separation and spread. Elements remained placed where they needed to be and blended together smoothly.

Surround usage seemed modest. As usual for a concert presentation, the back speakers favored crowd noise, with a dollop of musical reinforcement added for good measure. This made sense and the rear channels contributed just enough to the mix to make themselves worthwhile.

Audio quality pleased. Vocals appeared warm and natural, while the instruments showed good reproduction. Bass response seemed positive, and highs came across with nice clarity and bite. This ended up as a satisfactory mix.

Only a few extras appear here. Under Behind the Scenes, we find a 13-minute, 19-second piece with comments from lighting designer Tom Kenny, bandmembers Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator Amy Chapman, Teenage Cancer Trust Chief Executive Siobhan Dunn and Royal Albert Hall Education and Outreach Executive Paul Munday.

Though we see a little from the show’s rehearsals, the featurette mainly promotes the Teenage Cancer Trust. While I’m sure it’s a fine charity, this doesn’t become an interesting program.

Screen Footage covers two songs: “Acid Queen” (3:50) and “Pinball Wizard” (2:59). These show the video material that ran behind the band for those songs. I don’t think the clips are exceptional, but they’re a fun addition.

Finally, a booklet completes the set. It presents a couple of photos and credits.

With Tommy Live at the Royal Albert Hall, the Who provide a pretty good representation of their most famous album. While the show never crackles, it fares well and portrays the music in a positive manner. The Blu-ray boasts strong picture and audio as well as minor supplements. This ends up as a likable product for Who fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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