Hara Arena, Dayton, Ohio, USA – August 13, 1971
Disc 1 (41:27) Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again, I Don’t Even Know Myself, Baby Don’t You Do It, Pinball Wizard (cut). Extra Track: Pinball Wizard (Intro edit version)
Disc 2 (75:16) Love Ain’t For Keeping, Pure And Easy, My Wife, I Can’t Explain, Substitute, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again, I Don’t Even Know Myself, Baby Don’t You Do It, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, My Generation, Magic Bus (fade out)
The summer of 1971 found The Who touring in support of their latest wax opus entitled Who’s Next, released in August of that year. The tour was made up of dates on the East Coast and the Midwest beginning with two dates at Forrest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York on July 29 and 30 and ending with a three night stand at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago on August 17, 18, and 19. The best recording of the tour came via an old vinyl single LP bootleg with a portion of the performance at the Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio. The recording was an audience source of very good to near excellent quality, sadly the complete tape has never surface so what was released on vinyl is all we have. The folks at Speak Ezy released a comprehensive title of the concert back in 2016 as The Who Live! Collectors Item featuring a needle drop of the vinyl title on the first CD and an alternate longer audience recording on the second disc.
The first source was originally released on vinyl in 1972 as Live! Collectors Item (Matrix 79026) featuring a cover photo of the band from years earlier as they were still looking quite Mod. Subsequent pressings Live! Collectors Item (Berkley 2299), Live! Collectors Item (Contrabnd Music CBM-3669), The Who Live! Collectors Item (Matrix 92071 A/B) and Live (From England) (Berkley Records) all featured different covers more in tune with the era of the performance. Early releases on compact disc are Collectors Item (No label) featuring a transfer of the vinyl LP and bonus tracks from an Oklahoma City 1967 performance. Collectors Edition (Wholiday Music WH005) is as single CD with only the Dayton material. The SpeakEzy label utilized The Who Live! Collectors Item (Matrix 92071 A/B) as the source material for the first disc featured on this release.
The taper sounds close to the stage and managed to capture a really nice sounding document. All instruments and vocals come through cleanly in the mix, as does a young woman at the beginning of Bargain, one of the 7,500 strong who packed the Hara Arena. If anything the sound of the recording lacks bottom end so it’s a little bit thin sounding and does have just a small amount of top end distortion common with tapes of the type and as aforementioned, it is sadly only 38 minutes in length. The condition of the vinyl is superb and the transfer as well as mastering was done very well, no pops and crackles to speak of, like the other titles I have from SpeakEzy they master just a tad on the loud side but certainly not for the worse.
Bargain has an awkward start but quickly turns into a powerhouse, it’s interesting to listen to this tape as it captures the intimate rapport between the band and audience. Townshend does some typical introductions and seems to include the crowd in spur of the moment comments like in a one on one conversation. Behind Blue Eyes is not as dramatic as it would become, Won’t Get Fooled Again is very powerful, the programmed synthesizer is nice and clear in the mix. Pete introduces Baby Don’t You Do It saying “It’s turning out to be one of the best numbers we do”, this version certainly delivers. Moon plays a great rhythm and blues meets funk beat that’s very consistent, one wonders if it was challenge for him to play almost conventionally. The band gets into a great groove about six minutes in with all three instrumentalists laying down some tasty licks, very satisfying. The last track is Pinball Wizard with seven seconds of source 2 patched at the beginning to make the song “complete”. The patch is seamless but other than fill gives the CD length an additional three minutes, the extra track in not really a necessity.
The second source features a near complete recording of the concert, it ends at the 6:18 mark of Magic Bus, the remainder of that song and the encore of Naked Eye were not recorded. The sound of the second longer source is similar to the first just a bit more distant but very clear and falls into the good to very good range, only limited by the horrible acoustics of the Hara Arena. The sound is boomy as it picks up more of the hall ambiance and is better balanced and there is just a bit of distortion on the top end and bass frequencies. Overall a great sounding recording that has been released prior on Live 1971 (No Label), a two disc release with the first disc being the alternate longer source, the second disc being the San Francisco, December 13, 1971 soundboard.
One of the highlights of this recording is we get the opening combo of Love Ain’t for Keeping and Pure And Easy, easily the best live documents of these tracks from this era save for the Young Vic recordings earlier in the year. This is the last known live recording of Pure And Easy until 1999 when it briefly made an appearance at some intimate small venue performances in Chicago and London, the band would also reshuffle Love Ain’t For Keeping moving it to later in the set moving a few golden oldies to begin the concerts. One could guess the amount of new, as of yet, unheard music lead to impatient audiences. Judging by the ovation the band get for Pinball Wizard and See Me, Feel Me, the audience still wanted to hear the Tommy material while the band had tired of it to some degree, only including a couple tracks, the latter for very dramatic effect.
The packaging features full color inserts with mostly live shots of the band as well as pictures of the source record. There are liner notes from The Who concert file and a second insert featuring color reproduction of the Live! Collectors Item (Berkley 2299) cover with the insert having a very old Circus magazine article which I tried to blow up to read but was mostly illegible. A nice set by SpeakEzy who state on the back cover “100% LOUD NOISE!”, I couldn’t agree more.