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In our day we've pretty much lost touch with the idea of a real, larger than life rock & roll group. We've got Coldplay, and that's pretty much it; more people dislike than like Radiohead, and while some might argue for Guns N' Roses or the Rolling Stones, in all seriousness neither of them are really actually culturally relevant. As a result, it almost hurts to listen to a recording of the Clash co-headlining Shea Stadium in 1982, as the experience is a stark reminder that something like this will probably never happen again. The truth is that Rock is dead - The Chronic killed it in a drive-by.
So let's raise a glass to The Clash. I doubt if there's ever been a group that was as brilliantly diverse, intelligent, and still as desperate to fuck things up. At the time of their Shea concert, however, opening for The Who on October 13th, 1982, The Clash were a few weeks away from calling it a day. Combat Rock had been released earlier that summer, punk was a fading memory, and the fire that had been under The Clash's collective asses for the past five years had begun to smolder. You can hear it as such on Live at Shea Stadium - the group sounds close to being jaded with the material, opening a show with "London Calling" for what must have been the umpteenth time and running through "The Guns of Brixton" with a fragment of the swagger present on its recorded studio version. Joe Strummer patrols the proceedings like a captain of a ship that's lost at sea, with his crewmembers losing faith and spirit but presenting a confident front. Hearing the Clash in any form will always be something special, but at Shea Stadium they sound like a group watching their moment fade away.
Maybe I'm not giving enough credit to the surrounding circumstances. I've never put on a concert in front of 50,000 people, but I have a feeling it can create a similar emotional response to playing in front of nobody at all. That being the case, with little to no crowd intimacy, I can understand why Live at Shea Stadium sounds a little hollow, and in respect I have to say that there are moments on this record where Strummer & Co. overcome and really shine. The clear highlight is "Police On My Back," a chugging punk dragon that gives the band fleeting zeal and solidarity under the united voices of both Mick Jones and Joe Strummer. The same is the case for "Clampdown," a career live staple, and "I Fought the Law" is about as perfect a closer as one could ask for.
The bootleg cover art excluded, the production of At Shea Stadium is solid - the sound is clear and crisp, the crowd noise between songs is monstrous, and the liner notes and photos provided, though brief, are a treat. My question is: why this record? Sure, Live at Shea Stadium sounds like an impressive title, but why pick a show from the band's last, dying days in front of a mindbogglingly large crowd where interaction between the band and the audience will be minimal, if not nonexistent? Surely there's a devastating show from their late 70s heyday lying around somewhere in the vaults waiting to be heard. Regardless, there are moments on Live at Shea Stadium that, despite its shortcomings, remind you that The Clash really were all that mattered in Rock music at a certain point in time, and for that it's worth the purchase of a true fan. Maybe it can catch the right set of ears and inspire someone to attempt to take over the world with rock and roll again. We're all waiting for them. SEE ALSO: www.theclash.com
SEE ALSO: www.legacyrecordings.com
Introduced to music in the womb with a pair of headphones on his mother's stomach, Dave Toropov has yet to recover the experience. A writer based in Boston and New York, he has also written for Prefix Magazine and What Was It Anyway, and is the maintainer of the "Middleclass Haunt" blog.
See other articles by Dave Toropov.
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