Chicago 1971 (Killing Floor KF 98007/8)
The Auditorium Theater, Chicago, IL – August 18th, 1971
Disc 1 (42:31): Summertime Blues, My Wife, Love Ain’t For Keeping, I Can’t Explain, Substitute, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again
Disc 2 (43:23): Baby Don’t You Do It, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, My Generation, Naked Eye, Magic Bus
While The Who were recording the classic LP Who’s Next from March to April 1971, they ventured out onto the road to give some live performances around England to stage-test the new material including the famous show at the Vic Theater and secret gigs in Liverpool and Dundee.
The first sustained tour after the album’s completion was a three week tour of the eastern US, starting with two shows in New York in July and ending with three at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago on August 17th, 18th, and 19th several days after Who’s Next finally hit the shelves.
Chicago 1971 on Killing Floor is the first and only release of the second Chicago show. It is a reasonably listenable audience tape of the entire concert from relatively close to the stage. It captures the dynaics and energy of the show, which is very important for Who releases. There are several cuts between songs and one in “See Me, Feel Me” at 3:07 omitting a bit of the song.
It is a competent job by the label. The cuts could have been smoothed over and the tape could have benefited with a gentle mastering job like perhaps boosting the volume to make it sound more full.
The usual setlist for the tour had the band starting with “Love Ain’t For Keeping” and “Pure And Easy.” But for the Chicago shows the former was pushed back and the latter was dropped entirely (and wouldn’t be played live again for almost thirty years).
Instead, to celebrate the end of the summer tour, they started each of the Chicago concerts with “Summertime Blues.” This had been a staple of their live shows and even became a mod classic, but The Who played it only once in the last year (at Bath in the spring). Languid and slow, it’s an ironic, if not a particularly effective, set opener.
With a curt hello and introduction, they rip into an elongated, chaotic version of John Entwistle’s “My Wife” followed by “Love Ain’t For Keeping,” which Townshend introduces as “a Daltrey voice tester.”
As the show progresses they become much more loose and talkative to the audience. Before “Bargain” Townshend goes into a long explanation about what he wants from the audience, explaining that the song is “all about what you’re getting. I’ll tell you what you’re getting later. For now, sit tight because the next two tunes are fairly easy in content. You just sit in your plush chairs and dig it and we’ll tell you what to do…..It’s very hard…”
Daltrey quips: “Swap knickers with your neighbor!” To which, an embarrassed Townshend replies: “He didn’t say ‘swap knickers with your neighbor.’ He said ‘Tom Vickers is a slaver.’ It’s a code.”
The band are confident enough with the new songs to stretch them past their recorded counterparts. “Bargain” and “Behind Blue Eyes” are longer and heavier. Daltrey calls “Won’t Get Fooled Again” as “a rock and roll song in celebration of our society” before giving the excited introduction: “WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN!!!!!!!!”
Townshend again gets into a long dialogue with the audience before “Baby Don’t You Do It.” It is stretched out to almost twelve minutes in this recording, being of the longest and most dynamic version from the era. “My Generation” likewise is very much extended with a long “heavy metal” improvisation in the middle. “Naked Eye” and a long “Magic Bus” close the evening’s performance.
Chicago 1971 is packaged in a single pocket cardboard sleeve made of glossy paper and two photographs taken from the tour featuring Townshend in his silver shiny jumpsuit. This is a very dynamic time period for the band and any listenable document is worth having. And even though Killing Floor could have improve this release, it is still good as it is and worth having.