I've just sat down at my computer and watched a DVD of The Who live at Charlton football ground, way back in 1974.
That was at about the time that i started going to gigs myself (I was 16 in 1974). I realise that it was, quite obviously, a whole different world back then. Both, in the world of gigs and the world in general.
But, what struck me the most about this gig footage was just how chaotic it was on stage.
Let's not forget that, at that time, The Who were one of the biggest bands on the planet and that gig at Charlton was a very big deal indeed. In fact, during the gig, Pete Townshend comments that that was probably the biggest crowd they'd played to since Woodstock!
Stadium gigs back then were very rare. Unlike today when they seem to be ten a penny.
So, seeing how haphazard it all was came as a bit of shock, even to me. I saw The Who, at Charlton once again, only a couple of years later and remember it as being a very good gig indeed. I wonder now if i was badly mistaken?
The 1974 DVD, filmed by the BBC i believe, showed Keith Moon's drum kit being subject to running repairs throughout the show. Cymbal stands were taken away and brought back again. Roadies were fixing various drums as the show progressed. And this doesn't even take into account Keith Moon himself throwing drumsticks way up into the air and then not catching them on their way back down again. Or, just losing sticks and scrambling for a replacement.
Pete Townshend is seen frequently talking to somebody at the side of the stage trying to get the sound adjusted. Roger Daltrey's microphone has to be replaced. The list goes on.
I just can't imagine this kind of thing happening in quite the same way today. Gigs today, especially stadium gigs like that, are run with military precision. I'm sure things do go wrong, that's to be expected. But, i doubt they go so wrong so publically.
Of course having a birds eye view helps you spot the errors and i expect what i saw was edited (although that could make it worse!), but even so....
The other aspect that really shocked me was the actual quality of the bands performance.
I'm a fan of The Who and they have written some of my favourite songs of all time. But, it must be said, that this was a pretty bad gig. Although the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Don't they always?
The band seemed under rehearsed and, at times, seemed to be making it up as they went along, or jamming. For example, some songs ended in a very haphazard fashion, almost petering out.
Keith Moon came in too early on Baba O'Riley. Pete Townshend was all over the place throughout the gig and appeared "tired and emotional". Roger Daltrey seemed to be wondering what was going on some of the time and stood with his back to the audience for a fair amount of the gig because of this. The band also seemed to go out of time on more than one occasion. The whole atmosphere on stage seemed a little strained at times too.
There was also hardly any talking to the crowd, especially from Roger Daltrey. Just a few random ramblings from Pete Townshend.
To be honest, i was half expecting the whole gig to disintegrate before my eyes.
All this seems a far cry from what a modern crowd would expect at a prestigious gig like this today. Maybe this is just the way things were in those days? Maybe i just notice these things more now? Maybe that's what The Who were always like? I doubt it somehow.
I''ve seen many films and DVDs, albeit usually official ones, of gigs from those heady days and have never seen a performance like this.
In my experience, bands have always prided themselves on putting on a good performance for their fans. Possibly, even more so back then when the music seemed to be more important than making money?
I can't imagine a band these days being able to last very long if they put on a performance like this one. Any band today has to be able to be good live. That's partly due to the amount of good bands around. You need to be able stand out from the crowd. Then again, if you're big enough, maybe you can get away with it?
Maybe things were just different back then? Or, maybe, some things never change?
If you pay a lot of money to see your own favourite band, you are always going to enjoy it, aren't you? No matter what.
Maybe, we just all analyse things too much nowadays and forget about just letting ourselves go and enjoying ourselves?
Who knows and who am i to judge?