Like that greatest-hits collection that gathers material scattered over different labels and lesser works from a band’s canon in one convenient package, “Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who” is a one-stop, up-to-the-minute overview of a band that’s been profiled in docu form on many occasions but is still making music, and headlines, in sporadic bursts. An automatic addition to the boomer fan’s DVD shelf, Universal release will find a more challenging path theatrically; a lot of years have passed since 1979’s “The Kids Are Alright,” and while the band’s back catalog is strong, their current draw is an iffier proposition.
In extensive, fresh interviews, surviving band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, who both look terrific for their ages (both are in their 60s), come out swinging with cheerful, expletive-laden soundbites on the band’s gestation and early struggles. Much time and detail are given over to drummer Keith Moon, who died of an accidental overdose in 1978, and bassist John Entwistle, who succumbed to a cocaine-induced heart attack on the eve of the band’s 2002 tour.
And it’s all here, from the exploding drum kit on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1967 to the trampling deaths at the band’s 1979 Cincinnati gig. Of particular interest are sequences covering Daltrey’s impassioned defense of Townshend during his 2003 trumped-up legal troubles involving Internet child pornography, and the pair’s expressions of friendship on the occasion of their first studio album in 24 years, 2006’s “Endless Wire.”
Added bonus is the presence of many key supporting players in the Who machine, including ex-manager Chris Stamp, current handler Bill Curbishley, Moon replacement Kenney Jones, producer Glyn Johns and others. Musicians weighing in on the band’s influence include Sting, the Edge, Noel Gallagher, Eddie Vedder and Steve Jones.
Vet co-helmer Murray Lerner has covered band ground before in his film of the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, while Paul Crowder, who also edits and narrates, cut more than 50 episodes of VH1’s “Behind the Music” and helmed 2006’s “Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos.”
Tech package is both slick and unfussy, with a visual scheme — story chapters using Who lyrics and emerging from the label of an album entitled “Amazing Journey” — that’s less precious onscreen than it sounds. Credits list seven lensers and seven sound engineers.