Pete Townshend Live: Live at the House of Blues Chicago/a Benefit for Maryvilleacademy Double CD
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The advantage Pete Townshend has over many of his contemporaries is he's found nonmusical outlets for his creative urges. Engaged in publishing in his post-Who semi-retirement, the windmilling guitarist has returned to the stage infrequently, which may partially explain the energy he brings to this performance, a benefit for a treatment center for abused children. The two-disc collection features Townshend backed by a quintet on one disc and stretching out with Eddie Vedder and keyboardist Jon Carvin on remakes of "Magic Bus" and "Heart to Hang Onto" on the second disc. Townshend scatters a couple of unexpected covers (Canned Heat's droning "On the Road Again" and Dylan's "Girl From the North Country") and a few more obscure originals ("Now and Then," "Drowned") among the staples ("Anyway Anyhow Anywhere," "Let My Love Open the Door," "Won't Get Fooled Again"). The original art punk now approaches his material with a certain mature reserve, but he's consistently engaged and in fine voice. Here's one '60s hero who isn't treading the same worn path because he has no interest in arriving at the same old destination. --Steven Stolder
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Who fans will probably have mixed emotions about this disc. The few people who were fortunate enough to attend the concerts will be disappointed because they know what's missing. The rest will love it. The tracks on the CD and its bonus disc come from Townshend's '97 and '98 shows at Chicago's House of Blues.
Highlights? Let's start with the rarely played "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere." The song starts off with Townshend and a drum machine, then kicks firmly into high gear as he shouts, "nothing gets in my way, not even locked doors." Pete's voice sounds great, and his guitar work is even better. "Now and Then" is the lone track from Psychoderelict. Hopefully, this stellar performance of the song will inspire people to go out and find the original CD.
"Won't Get Fooled Again" wins the prize for `most changed song.' Townshend starts the song on acoustic, then switches to electric for the killer solos. On "Magic Bus," you'll swear it's 1972 all over again when you hear the way he attacks his guitar. Both of these tracks clock in at over 12 minutes. Percussionist Jody Linscott and keyboardist Jon Carin are the star performers on "A Little is Enough," recreating and enhancing all the nuances and effects of the studio version.
The big selling point here is the bonus disc. Taken from the '97 show, Townshend and Carin are joined onstage by "special guest" (a.k.a. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder) for one of the best versions of "Magic Bus" that you'll ever hear, and a great version of the seldom heard "Heart to Hang Onto." Townshend's vocals are outstanding on both tracks, and Vedder turns in an inspired performance as well.
The bad thing about this CD is that you may not be able to find it at your local CD shop. Well, fear not Who fans. You can get it online at Amazon.com. Pete Townshend Live isn't as good as the Deep End disc, but there's enough brilliance here to satisfy any self-respecting Who fan.
But, this - Pete Townshend's Live album - is the real thing. This is the work of an artist, not a historian.
I'm completely unfamiliar with Townshend's solo work, but I love the WHO, and dig live concerts, so, when this was sold at a reasonable price, it was an obvious purchase.
Townshend here presents material roughly equally distributed throughout his career. Fortunately, the reworkings of oldies breath new lives into them - Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere is no longer a proto-punk quickie - rather it becomes a rich, complex and powerful composition testifying for Townshend's youth. Drowned is truly improved upon, getting a more subdude approach. I don't know the original versions of 'Now and Than', ' Let My Love Open the Door', and You Better, You Bet, but they all work wonderfully here, the latter, especially is a great song, containing pop sensability combined with real energy and fine songwriting.
The only disappointments come from the most popular and best songs on this CD - Magic Bus and Won't Get Fooled Again. Those songs suffer from opposite problems: Magic Bus, despite some changed lyrics (Sometimes emberassingly weak 'every bus has two decks - the upper deck, and the lower deck'), is essentially the same song as it was in the album. Won't Get Fooled Again is reworked heavily, but since WGFA is arguably the WHO's best song, it can't be reworked to work any better than the original, and while Pete Townshend is a fine singer, he can't compete with Daltrey's vocals.
Those are especially unnecessary, as various live performances of these songs are available elsewhere - certainly 'Live in Leeds' include the ultimate version of Magic Bus - and non other is necessary.
On the other hand, including some lesser known Townshend songs would probably have been preferable to repeating these ones, and if, they wanted to use classic Who stuff, why not ' The Kids Are Alright' which was apperantly performed in that concert, which is thematically logical to this concert, and which doesn't appear on nearly as many Who live albums.
But those are minor complains. This is a wonderful album. It ends with Townshend's solo performance of I'm One - Solo only if you disinclude the crowd, which recieved Townshend with the enthusiasm the performance deserved.