The Who | Live At Shea Stadium 1982 – Live Release Review

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The Who as a live unit is unquestionably on-topic when it comes to which rock bands dominate the concert circuit. Sorry Beatles and Stones fans, but this is one area where the Who might have the edge. Maybe that’s why they’ve released more live albums than studio albums. Looking over their discography, there’s no shortage of stellar captures of the original foursome of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. And there are plenty of live releases with lineups from the last 20 years that have come out digitally and in physical form. Now it’s time for something completely different. Live At Shea Stadium 1982 provides a defining, often missed moment for the Who in their storied existence.

A film of the same show was previously released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2015, so Live At Shea Stadium 1982 could be called an audio companion. For vinyl lovers, there’s three LPs; for CD collectors, there’s two CDs. Compared to earlier and more recent eras, Who live releases with drummer Kenney Jones, who played with the band from 1978 through 1988, is an area somewhat overlooked. There’s only a couple, and they’re not in heavy circulation.

The much maligned Who’s Last, released in 1984, gathers a good chunk of the December 14, 1982 show in Cleveland, Ohio, their final U.S. concert show from the tour, and it is amended with cuts from other stops on the tour. Where it falls short is not including any of the newer, less-known songs the Who were playing at the time. Live At Shea Stadium more than makes up for it. Alongside the usual favorites like “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “My Generation,” “Substitute,” “Who Are You,” and “Baba O’Riley,” the set is rounded out by “Dangerous” and “Cry If You Want” from the then-new album, It’s Hard.

Those and others like “Sister Disco,” “The Quiet One,” and “It’s Hard” were dropped from the setlist eons ago. Throw in buried Who treasure like “I’m One” and “The Punk And The Godfather” from Quadrophenia, plus the classic “Naked Eye,” and it’s easy to see what distinguishes Live At Shea Stadium from most of the band’s other live discs. That alone warrants a little extra attention.

The 1982 tour was their last with Jones (he played a couple more shows, including 1985’s Live Aid). It was also billed as their “farewell” tour, all but certain until they returned in 1989. Recorded October 13, 1982, the second of their two-night run at the legendary venue, Live At Shea Stadium doesn’t sound like a band ready to hang it up.

Daltrey’s voice is at its most powerful. Townshend, who’d adopted a roguish, punk-inspired attitude at the time, aggressively scratches and claws his guitar, while adding an extra bite to his vocals. Entwistle is as stoic as ever, and Jones is right in everyone’s back pocket. He was the perfect foil for the Who after Moon’s passing. With Jones, there was never a question of his expertise behind the kit. Any disparities were affecting the founders, and a much-needed break was important to the preservation of the Who’s legacy.

Go ahead and hold up Live At Shea Stadium next to the group’s classic Live At Leeds. The fact that they each capture a single performance should be taken into account. Unless you’re there, that’s the only way you can find out if an artist can do an entire show without incident. Coming from different periods of the Who’s gestation is what they makes each set equally enticing. Booming from your speakers in quick succession, the Who over the course of 12 years never wavered from their commitment to assault the senses with raw passion and defiant singularity. The people who made it to Leeds in 1970 and Shea Stadium in 1982 both felt the rush from the first note in. Thanks to Live At Leeds and now Live At Shea Stadium, so can you.

~ Shawn Perry

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