The Who

Live at Hull 1970

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The night after the Who recorded the performance that would become Live at Leeds, a document of the ferocity and raw energy they were applying to their stage show in 1970, they drove down to the neighboring town of Hull and gave a second concert for a considerably more subdued audience. Over the years since its release, Live at Leeds was recognized as the definitive moment of the Who coming into their own as a live performance machine, and has been revered as one of the top live recordings of its time, capturing the band at their most fiery peak. Most of the material on Live at Hull 1970 has been released commercially before as part of one of the countless, expanded repackagings of Live at Leeds. Standing on its own, the set is a bit of a redundant curiosity more than an essential part of the band's discography. The set lists for both shows are identical, with the only exception being Live at Leeds' transcendent encore of "Magic Bus" is missing here, with an equally jammy, 15-plus-minute "My Generation" filling the space. The second set of both nights found the band playing Tommy in its entirety. While Who aficionados could debate the finer points of the two gigs, casual listeners will have a hard time differentiating between the performances. Many of the differences come in the technicalities of the recordings, which are both raw, on-site, multi-track recordings with the Live at Hull recordings suffering initially from so many pops, glitches, and even instrumental dropouts that the reels were shelved for decades. Digital editing cleaned up the most blaring errors of the set, but it remains a "warts-and-all" sort of experience. Live at Hull is every bit as charged and volcanic as Live at Leeds, and the moments of shaky fidelity just add to the rough, exciting sound and feel of the album. While either set would stand well on its own without the other, the 40-some years that made Live at Leeds a near-legendary album negate some of the power of the recordings made the next night. Live at Hull is great and powerful, but gratingly inconsequential when held up against its predecessor. As a testament to the interchangeability of the two nights, it can be noted that the bass wasn't recorded on the first four songs on Hull's original reels. For this reissue, bass tracks from the night before were edited and manipulated to a passable degree, almost as if to suggest the two sets were more or less identical.

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