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Better than Live At Leeds ?

January 20, 2020

Here is the LP they should have released instead – available from http://www.1960s.london

The Who Live In Amsterdam 1969

All tracks recorded live at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands on September 29th 1969 and broadcast by AVRO FM radio on September 30th, produced by Karel van de Graaf.

Side A

  1. Heaven And Hell (John Entwistle)
  2. I Can’t Explain (Pete Townshend)
  3. Fortune Teller (Naomi Neville)
  4. Tattoo (Pete Townshend)
  5. A Quick One While He’s Away (Pete Townshend)

Side B

  1. Substitute (Pete Townshend)
  2. Happy Jack (Pete Townshend)
  3. I’m A Boy (Pete Townshend)
  4. My Generation (Pete Townshend), including themes from

See Me, Feel Me (Pete Townshend)

Pinball Wizard (Pete Townshend)

Naked Eye (Pete Townshend)

The Ox (Pete Townshend / Keith Moon / John Entwistle / Nicky Hopkins)

Sparks (Pete Townshend)

 

Personnel

Pete Townshend – Guitar, vocals

Roger Daltrey – Lead vocals

John Entwistle – Bass, vocals

Keith Moon – Drums

Sleevenotes: Sheik E. Hand

The Who’s performance at Amsterdam’s Opera House in September 1969 was remarkable in a number of ways. It was the first of a series of gigs in more formal surroundings, to be followed by the London Coliseum, the Berlin Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This had been achieved through the critical and commercial success of Tommy. Who co-manager Kit Lambert was the son of noted classical composer Constance Lambert and took understandable pride in his proteges playing such prestigious venues. Amsterdam was also notable for being recorded in extraordinarily high quality by Dutch radio.

This was also one of the longest live gigs the Who ever performed. The band decided to insert the double album Tommy into the middle of their existing set, thus extending their time on stage to well over two hours. This most physical of bands had been touring since May and it is a testament to their road-hardened stamina that throughout this performance their energy levels never flag. The central position and length of the Tommy segment tended to overshadow the other songs in the set, despite the Who effectively and concisely playing a string of their stunning 1960s hit singles. And then there was the mini-opera A Quick One While He’s Away, Tommy’s predecessor and a clever blend of song fragments held together by sung orchestral arrangements such as “cello, cello, cello”.

A successful three-week American tour had prompted Daltrey to stop straightening his hair and grow it out and his new curly mane was fit for a rock god (see also Plant, Robert). Sartorially Townshend went in the other direction, with an equally distinctive disheveled boiler suit, Dr Martens and a Cherry Red Gibson SG. A Dutch TV clip revealed that just before the Amsterdam gig started Keith Moon fell off stage knocking over two speaker cabinets. Moon emerged covered with blood but carried on regardless. The same clip shows the all-seated audience to be an intriguing mix of suits and Afghan coats.

The set opener is Entwistle’s Heaven and Hell, a perfect choice and the best rocker he wrote for the band. Elements of the guitar solo would later emerge in obscure single Priorities, recorded by Shel Talmy-produced punkers Trash. I Can’t Explain is terse and urgent, in contrast to the more delicate opening section of Fortune Teller. As Townshend says in his introduction this cover was a staple in  the live set of many groups but here The Who make it their own, with a faster second half seguing delicately into Tattoo. This sensitive reflection on masculinity was clearly a band favourite: having been released on The Who Sell Out in 1967 it was still being played live as late as 1974. Then a sparkling version of A Quick One While He’s Away  which rivals the live take recorded for the Rolling Stones Rock’n’Roll Circus. The immaculate trio of Substitute, Happy Jack and I’m A Boy are played in arrangements close to the original singles with Townshend and Entwistle easily handing the high vocal harmonies and Moon playing lead drums on Happy Jack. Set closer My Generation summarises the history of the Who to date as it lurches through a number of other songs including the only known live performance of The Ox, the savage surf instrumental that formed the B side to 1965’s The Kids Are Alright.

Was there ever a better Who live recording than Live In Amsterdam ? For Monterey in 1967 the band played through weedy borrowed Vox amps. A Fillmore East 1968 gig saw the band playing well but the choice of material and recording quality was not as good.  In August 1969 Woodstock saw the band spiked, onstage late and thoroughly pissed off (“fucking awful”). Better results were obtained when the band used the Pye mobile to record their gig at Leeds University on February 14th  1970 on. Six tracks from this gig were released as the LP Live At Leeds in May 1970 to great acclaim. Chris Charlesworth called it “the best live rock album of its era” and Dave Marsh acclaimed “the most ferocious, visceral rock the Who have ever recorded…absolutely nonstop hard rock”.

Earlier in 1970 Nik Cohn had written that Live At Leeds would include Happy Jack, I’m A Boy, Heaven And Hell and Tattoo. Cohn had heard this material and he was ecstatic about the Who’s performance “Without exception, they are shatteringly loud, crude and vicious, entirely expressive. Without exception they are marvelous.” None of these tracks made it on to the original Live At Leeds LP.

Live In Amsterdam is the LP that Cohn described so eloquently, embodying his vision of The Who as Superpop. The choice of songs is perceptive. The sound quality is extraordinary. The performances are intuitive, sensitive and wildly exciting. Live In Amsterdam is a vital document of the Who at their performing peak, and Probably The Best Who Live LP In The World.

3 Comments
  1. Mike Baess permalink

    Hi Simon,

    The existing boots of this are already amazing. Has your one been tweaked/turbo-charged?

    Did you not press the whole gig because you thought it would be too expensive?

    I take it you’ve heard the lost 69 US tour recordings which are also extremely aggressive.

    Mike

    ________________________________

  2. I have heard some of the US tour – it is my favourite Who era. The Amsterdam tracks have been remastered but as you know the original source is very high quality. And yes, the Tommy segment of the gig still exists…watch this space!

  3. Tina permalink

    What is this nonsene ?, LAL is not even best show from that partiocular tour…. LAL was always subdued show sonically for recording purposes… Just listen to various 1969 show to hear true power from them

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