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Live at Leeds
The Who

Decca 79175
Released: May 1970
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 44
Certified Gold: 8/6/70

Not since Tommy has there been a record quite so incredibly heavy, so inspired with the kind of kinetic energy that the Who have managed to harness on this album. They have always been the type of group which relies on a simple, hard, repetitive and highly contagious theme that doesn't involve itself terribly with head stuff. "My Generation," which is included, does not depart from this formula and must rank as one of the great rock songs of all time. And they do this together with a generous sampling from Tommy, fusing several songs together on the second side in a highly powerful physical and coherent theme. The entire album flows like Tommy only beter; there's no waiting for the good stuff.

- Jonathan Eisen, Circus, 7/70.

Bonus Reviews!

Recorded in live performance in Leeds, England, the Who should fast meet the success of Tommy from a sales and chart standpoint. The unique packaging covers their entire career in the form of letters of cancellations for their early engagements, court appearance orders, early photos, contracts, as well as original sketches of Townshend's compositions.

- Billboard, 1970.

The band has never even tried to simulate stage power in the studio except on its raw debut, which makes side one, with its first-ever recordings of two key live covers and the first version of the classic "Substitute" available here on LP, doubly valuable. But side two extrapolates the uncool-at-any-length "Magic Bus" and the bish-bash climax of "My Generation," which has to be seen to be believed. I much prefer the raw debut. B

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A loud, raunchy concert showcase for the group, with surprisingly little material from Tommy. The group's R&B roots are showcased here far better than on their post-My Generation studio albums, and the only problem for some listeners is the lack of the sophisticated studio sound they'd developed on previous releases. The 1995 CD reissue doubles the length of the original LP, with plenty of additional material from the same performance, including versions of some more of their early singles and unexpected items like "Tattoo" and the R&B standard "Fortune Teller." * * * * *

- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Faced with the impossible task of following up the grand statement of Tommy, the Who just cranked up their amps. Rather than wade through eighty hours of American shows for a live album, Pete Townshend claimed he burned those tapes "in a huge bonfire" and selected a concert at Leeds University in England. Leeds is a warts-and-all live album, including an accidental clunking sound on "My Generation." There's no finesse, just the pure power of a band able to play as loud as it wants to. When the Who blew up Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" to Godzilla-like proportions, they invented Seventies arena rock.

Live at Leeds was chosen as the 170th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

The legendary power and volume of The Who was always best sampled live. The studio tended to deaden their electricity; they recorded some fabulous singles, but no truly perfect albums; even Tommy suffered from pretentious production. Live At Leeds, then, is not just possibly the greatest live album of all time; it is almost certainly The Who's finest moment.

The album caught the band soon after touring Tommy in its entirety, itching to cut loose. A show at Britain's Leeds University on Valentine's Day 1970 was the location; the band surged at full strength for more than two hours, playing Tommy, their classic singles, and a clutch of rock 'n' roll gems along the way. Unrestrained onstage, the power-trio of musicians behind Roger Daltrey swelled to fearsome strength -- bassist John Entwistle carrying the melodies, drummer Keith Moon rolling and filling with powerhouse abandon, and Pete Townshend proving himself a pioneer of feedback and dynamics, his terse solos full of ideas and emotion, a truly understated guitarist.

The resulting album arrived later that year, packaged like a faux-bootleg in a shabby cardboard gatefold. Though later expanded on CD (2000's complete two-CD Deluxe Edition is the one to buy), the original six-track vinyl is perfect in itself, especially the devil-driven cover of Mose Allison's "Young Man's Blues," and the sprawling "My Generation," which soon becomes a kaleidoscope of windmill riffage. Live At Leeds is as pure as heavy rock gets.

- Stevie Chick, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

(2010 Deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition) Live At Leeds: 40th Anniversary Super-Deluxe Collectors' Edition sports a restored live album from The Who's performance in Hull on Feb. 15, 1970 -- the night after the Leeds gig was recorded. "Hull was a better gig than Leeds... I remember it like it was yesterday, although in retrospect 'Live At Hull' doesnŐt really trip off the tongue!," Who singer Roger Daltrey once said. Also included is a heavyweight vinyl reproduction of the original Live At Leeds album, a hardback book, a seven-inch single of "Summertime Blues"/"Heaven & Hell," and a Pete Townshend poster.

- New Musical Express, 9/10.

Given the impossible task of following up their opera Tommy, the Who just turned up the amps. Live at Leeds is a warts-and-all live album, including an accidental clunking sound on "My Generation." No finesse, just the pure power of a band playing as loud as it wants to.

Live at Leeds was chosen as the 327th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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Cliff Anderson

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