May 1970, Pt. 4 – The Who and the Definitive Live Rock Album

5/23/70: The Who – Live at Leeds

Inching toward summer 1970, The Who released what is still widely considered the greatest live rock album of all time (with all due respect to fans of live albums by Humble Pie, the Stones, Frampton, Cheap Chick, Deep Purple, and others), and one of the best rock albums, period. The band recorded several shows on tour supporting 1969’s Tommy, but 2,100 capacity Leeds University Refectory and Hull City Hall were booked in February specifically to record a live album.

The Who - Live At Leeds [LP] - Music

Live at Leeds was originally planned as a double album to include the Tommy set, but of the 33 songs performed in the show, Pete Townshend decided on a single, six-song release, with snippets of See Me, Feel Me and Sparks from the 1969 rock opera heard in the stretched out version of My Generation at the beginning of side two. Clocking in at just over 37 minutes as originally released, Live at Leeds captures the frenetic energy and violence of The Who’s live performances arguably at the band’s live peak.

The Vinyl Issue: The Who's Live At Leeds | Louder

Over the course of four reissues in the following 40 years, Leeds went on to include the Tommy set, the complete Hull show from the following night, and finally the entire Leeds show in correct running order for the first time. I actually owned the Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 release from 1996 before I ever gave a serious listen to Leeds, and without wading into the audiophile muck of production pros and cons that largely don’t interest me, I don’t feel there’s too much difference in the feel of the album aside from the fact that the Isle of Wight release contains Tommy.

Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (The Who album) - Wikipedia

The trend over the years of adding previously unreleased material, live or studio, when reissuing albums is something that has been interesting, exciting, and maddening. I’ve reached the point where expanded reissues are no longer automatic must haves. I’ve come around on originals prior to the add-ons. Live at Leeds in its original form is great for those occasions when you want to crank up some live Who to get yer ya-ya’s out but don’t necessarily want to listen to Tommy, which has its time and place for me.

What’s your favorite live album of all time of any genre? Do you value expanded reissues?


Side A:

  1. Young Man Blues
  2. Substitute
  3. Summertime Blues
  4. Shakin’ All Over

Side B:

  1. My Generation
  2. Magic Bus


10 thoughts on “May 1970, Pt. 4 – The Who and the Definitive Live Rock Album”

  1. I’m not huge on either live albums or on collecting multiple versions of the same album, but for me, Live at Leeds joins Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense as a record that feels a little skimpy in its original form, and where I much prefer the single disc expanded version.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love The Who, and Live at Leeds undoubtedly a great live album. Here are some other live albums I dig:
    – Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
    – Rolling Stones: Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!
    – Allman Brothers: At Fillmore East
    – Kinks: Live at Kelvin Hall
    – J. Geils Band: Live Full House
    – Cream: Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005
    – Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day (2012)
    – U2: Under a Bloody Red Sky

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 1: Live At Leeds
    2: At Fillmore East
    3…Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962… rough sounding but awesome just the same
    4: Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert
    5: The Band: The Last Waltz

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the Star Club inclusion. I think they were a better live band pre-fame when they were hungry. That might have changed if they’d played live after the advent of better amplification and the screaming died down.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. While I am NOT a fan of live albums I’d vote for Live At Leeds as my favorite. It seemed like at one time the Live album- was like a Greatest Hits or Best Of- a fill in product to put out when a band didn’t have a new stereo album. Maybe I am wrong but live albums seem to have gone out of style. I wonder what the best selling live album ever is? My guess would be Frampton Comes Alive!?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem that live albums have gone out of vogue. Maybe even albums, period, I can’t really tell. I would’ve guess Frampton as well, but depending on what criteria one follows (and I didn’t realize it’s kind of complicated until I looked it up just now), to my surprise it’s either Clapton’s Unplugged or Garth Brooks.

      Liked by 1 person

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