Two hours of primo rock and roll are delivered by the greatest live band in the history of the genre. If you can get past the crummy videography (and it is pretty bad), you’ll see and hear The Who tearing through a rough and ready set during which they hardly ever stop to catch their breath. The show occurred at Houston’s Summit Arena, November 20, 1975. It has been traded among collectors as a bootleg for years, but now Eagle Rock Entertainment brings us a remastered version that offers the best audio/visual presentation we could hope for, considering the source.
The vast majority of the footage comes from one static camera angle, with occasional variety provided by a second. Unfortunately, the primary angle strongly favors three of the four Who members. John Entwistle and his thundering bass go largely unseen. What counts more though is that he’s heard. The mix is definitely “live,” resulting in a very authentic viewing experience. This is the way the thousands of assembled Texans heard it, sloppy harmonies and all. The band opens with two of the set’s oldest tunes, the double shot of mid-‘60s glory, “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain.” It’s clear right off the bat that this is going to be an exciting show.
The staging throughout is as simple as it gets. Keith Moon’s drum kit isn’t even on a riser, allowing him and Pete Townshend to play off each other better. Moon is truly mesmerizing, thoroughly thrashing his drums in that inimitable way that made him the best drummer in all of rock. He manages a few funny asides, too. Roger Daltrey stalks the stage, roaring through classics such as “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with commanding authority. He melds into the background for the Entwistle spotlight “Boris the Spider” and Townshend’s lead spot, “However Much I Booze.” That latter track comes from The Who by Numbers, one of only three songs from their then-contemporary album. Of those new ones, “Squeeze Box” is the crowd pleaser.
A number of very lame “special effects” were originally applied to the video footage, so we’re saddled with them here. These include distracting superimpositions of freeze-frames over the live footage, occasional slow motion, and the rapid repetition of a brief snippet for comic effect (sometimes while also superimposed over the action). These visuals couldn’t have been cool even in 1975, but now they’re just groan-inducing. Thankfully they aren’t excessively common during the 117-minute running time. Chalk it up to being yet another aspect of a very flawed visual presentation. The audio remains unaffected, regardless of what shenanigans the editors were up to.
Highlights abound, including Daltrey’s superb vocals on “Behind Blue Eyes,” the brilliantly rendered deep track “Drowned” (from Quadrophenia), and the requisite Tommy medley, which reaches a transcendent apex with “We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You.” There are no bonus features, which is unsurprising given the no-frills presentation of this previously bootlegged concert video. The booklet contains a well-written essay by Chris Roberts with details about the show. If you’re already a fan of The Who, you won’t want to miss Live in Texas ‘75.