Music Blu-ray Review: The Who - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 2004

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Eagle Rock has issued The Who's Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 2004 on Blu-ray (a package that also includes a double CD set). This is post-Entwistle Who at their best, with Roger Daltrey in strong voice and Pete Townshend slashing away at his guitar. The band roars through a 23-song set with the assistance of Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) on guitar, Pino Palladino on bass, John Bundrick on keys, and Zak Starkey (son of Ringo) on drums.

The Who's 2004 return to the Isle of Wight Festival, revived in 2002 after a 32-year absence, obviously can't match the intensity of their legendary 1970 appearance (though not officially released as a film or live album, the band also played the fest in 1969—low quality video footage can be readily found). Those who feel the band should've hung it up after the 1978 death of Keith Moon, or after the 2002 death of bassist John Entwistle, should probably take a pass on this one. Nothing from Isle of Wight '04 is likely to convince such folks that The Who, in any incarnation, is still necessary. That's fine. Those who prefer to view Townshend and Daltrey as veteran rock soldiers who refuse to give up will find plenty to love here.

In a way, it seems a minor miracle they're still out there on the road. Between Daltrey's vocal chord trouble and other health issues and Townshend's hearing problems, no one would've blamed them if they'd decided to retire years ago. Instead, they've chosen to pay tribute to their past (while also bolstering their legacy for younger fans) by delivering powerhouse shows. They actually headlined the Isle of Wight fest as recently as 2016. Maybe that one will see release at some point, but for now we can crank up the DTS-HD 5.1 mix and enjoy this 13-year-old performance.

Daltrey really nails his vocals, even late in the two hour-plus show during a series of tunes from Tommy. But perhaps the best, most sincere moment in the show comes when Townshend steps up for a solo acoustic rendition of "Drowned" (sung by Daltrey on Quadrophenia, but handled by Townshend throughout the post-Moon era). In fact, Townshend pours passion and incredible energy in all of his vocals throughout this show. Both sides of The Who's then-recent single, Elvis Presley tribute "Real Good Looking Boy" and Entwistle dedication "Old Red Wine," are also part of of the career-spanning set.

As mentioned, the audio is presented in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 but is also available in LPCM stereo. Also mentioned, Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 2004 is a three-disc set: one Blu-ray (DVD also available) and two audio CDs, Eagle Rock has made this type of presentation a habit (see the Stones' From the Vault series, plus many more), which adds value to the set. There aren't any bonus features on the Blu-ray, but having the full concert as a live album is bonus enough.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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