Friday, 11 September 2015

The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982

On the 28th of June this year, The Who took to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury as part of their The Who Hits 50 tour, celebrating 50 years together. Yet in 1982, the band embarked on their ‘final tour’ together. Having lost their iconic and slightly unhinged drummer Keith Moon to a drug overdose in 1978, things went downhill for the band with rather poorly received albums Face Dances and It’s Hard (their ‘final’ album that this tour was promoting), and they decided it to go their separate ways. They were doing solo work, and songwriter/guitarist Pete Townshend said the band had just ‘reached the end’. As it turned out, they hadn’t.

Out now on DVD & Blu-ray, would Live at Shea Stadium have been a fond farewell to the rock legends? And does it stand up with their classic performances? The first thing you’ll notice when watching Live at Shea Stadium is just how bloody dated it looks. From the painfully 80s attire sported by the band – lead singer Roger Daltrey’s Miami Vice suit and hair is quite laughable by today’s standards – to the cheesy lighting and general VHS visual quality of the footage, this is The Who as you may have never seen them (and probably never wanted to) before. But when blasting out classic rock anthems Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley, you know instantly this is The Who you know and love. Or is it? Keith Moon’s absence behind the drum kit is felt throughout, and although Faces drummer Kenney Jones is trying his best he was never the right fit for The Who – the band have even admitted this since. But regardless, the 3 true members are on surprisingly fine form. Daltrey and Townshend are as energetic as ever and legendary bassist John Entwistle looks to be as having much fun as he ever did – standing like a statue at the side of the stage. 

The set list is very long at 25 songs, and filled with some great stuff. Naturally, it includes a lot of their 80s work – particularly from the It’s Hard album. A lot of these songs continue to divide Who fans but I stand by Eminence Front in particular as being a solid song, despite not sounding anything like The Who. But still, you can expect to hear the early classics like I Can’t Explain and Substitute, a few numbers from Tommy and Quadrophenia, some iconic tracks from Who’s Next and even a few bits popularised by their Live in Leeds album like Young Man Blues and Summertime Blues.

Live at Shea Stadium serves as a very interesting time capsule for Who fans. It’s a time when the band thought it was all over and are effectively saying goodbye on stage, and it’s interesting to see how they handled the 1980s. Sure, they changed their look and their sound on the later songs but they still had the early spirit and energy in them, especially when performing early classics. You can take The Who out of the 1960s, but you can’t take the 1960s out of The Who. And that point is still valid today – I’ve been lucky enough to attend two of the dates of their Hits 50 tour and have been absolutely blown away each time. Sure, there’s only two of them left now (Daltrey and Townshend remain, after Entwistle died in 2002 after a cocaine overdose) but they’re still The Who. If you’re a purist and want to see the original full line-up at their best, pick up the Live at the Isle of Wight or Live at Kilburn Blu-rays/DVDs. But if you’re a fan who has already seen all that and you want to see an interesting piece of The Who’s history, you could do a lot worse than Live at Shea Stadium.

For those interested, the setlist of Live at Shea Stadium is as follows –
Substitute/I Can't Explain/Dangerous/Sister Disco/The Quiet One/It's Hard/Eminence Front/Behind Blue Eyes/Baba O'Riley/I'm One/The Punk and the Godfather/Drowned/Tattoo/Cry If You Want/Who Are You/Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me/Love Reign O'er Me/Long Live Rock/Won't Get Fooled Again/Young Man Blues/Naked Eye/I Saw Her Standing There/Summertime Blues/Twist And Shout

Live at Shea Stadium isn’t vintage Who, but it’s still Who. 4/5.

Sam Love

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