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“Issue ‘Young Vic Live’ on Its Own and It Could Be Better than Live at Leeds.”

So I must have checked out this Who’s Next (Deluxe Edition) from the library on CD sometime in the past few years and gotten privy to a real gem as the disc two — a completely concert-recorded project known unofficially as “Young Vic Live,” but having never enjoyed its own proper release. Now, I’m really not sure how the logistics of these things work — I know that albums can often get re-released by different labels from the one they were originally bound to, like in the case of The Breeders’ Last Splash (which even went to the British label 4AD, sort of encouraging in this case). And I know in general these things can be way more lax over in Britain, one reason why Hendrix emigrated over there being that artistically they would basically let him do whatever he wanted and there was no stigma against playing really loud [1], as he would say in his auto bio Starting at Zero: His Own Story.
One advantage, and this is sort of a superficial one but possibly an important one nonetheless, to “Young Vic Live” over Live at Leeds is that it’s actually a London concert, ground in the band’s own hometown. Now, The Who were far from city snobs — just listen to many of their lyrics and they play as veritable travel brochures for all of England from the “He lived in the sand at the Isle of Man” anecdote in “Happy Jack” to Roger Daltrey’s quip in “Pinball Wizard” that “From Soho down to Brighton / I must have played ’em all”. Still, to listen to the band’s moxie and flash on “Young Vic Live” is truly a remarkable experience — at one point Roger Daltrey even makes conversation with this dude who was dancing, asks him to stop but promises that later he can come up on the stage and actually dance with the singer.
And then there’s the music itself, of course, which, very true to Who form, consists of corridors and corridors of rare gems. All of these tracks explode out the speakers with color, mysticism and purpose and what it lacks in big-hit appeal (“My Generation” is one of the few well-known songs not on Who’s Next to surface here), it more than makes up for in definitiveness — it’s little less bluesy and heavier on the roots rock and roll (which nonetheless is delivered tightly and powerfully), and thereby, in my opinion, more effectively captures what The Who truly were at their heart. It’s probably not too bold of a statement to call “Won’t Get Fooled again” The Who’s best song and it is included here as the finale. Then you’ve got “Behind Blue Eyes,” which I thought materialized as a very genuine and gripping version (I say this in close adjacency to seeing this ridiculously desultory Zappa performance of “Cosmik Debris” on some page a second ago), again, possibly, arguably, stemming from it actually being a London show. Elsewhere, you’ve got “Bargain,” “Love Ain’t for Keeping” and “Getting in Tune” all emanating from their new LP which would come out four months later (and personally I’m glad they didn’t play “Going Mobile”), giving the setlist a certain freshness, as if rather than trying to pander to the crowd with the singles, they’re placing full faith in their current synergy as a band. Especially, I’ve heard “Behind Blue Eyes” extolled as one he** of a cutting, undeniable ballad, and the “Young Vic Live” rendition is not only sold genuinely but actually is sung even better than the studio version, as you can actually tell that he’s saying “None of my pain and woe can show through” (whereas I’d always thought he’d been saying “can show blue”, as stupid as that is I guess).
“Young Vic Live” is an absolute masterpiece in songwriting, in cultural time capsule, but most importantly in sound itself, and every time I listen to it I marvel a little more at the beautiful clarity in Roger Daltrey’s voice, as well as the spot-on texture of Townshend’s acoustic guitar, perhaps cluing the listener in a bit for that matter on why The Who would come to be Eddie Vedder’s favorite band. It is available on Spotify currently as an add-on to the Who’s Next (Deluxe Edition) page.
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[1] There’s an interesting and to me bizarre account in the Zeppelin book LZ ’75 about these people the author was with filling with utter disgust before their first experience with the brash, voluminous guitar chugs of Zep’s self-titled debut. In hindsight, it certainly looks ridiculous to have that distaste for Zeppelin’s style, especially since they’re not even relatively hard heavy metal by today’s standards, obviously.

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