DVD Review: The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982

DVD Review: The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

The Who - Live At Shea Stadium 1982
The song it seemed was over for The Who. Internally, the bickering had intensified. Pete Townshend was struggling with his inner demons and seemed to be off tending to his solo career at the expense of the rest of the band, who were not at all happy about his moonlighting.

And there was a growing feeling that Kenney Jones was all wrong for The Who, that his drumming style was a bad fit for a band that never really recovered from the death of Keith Moon. Perhaps a bit rashly, The Who embarked on a 1982 farewell tour, when really all they needed was a good, long break from each other, seeing as how they would do a reunion tour seven years later. Saying goodbye with some sense of finality has always been hard for them.

On their North American jaunt that year, supporting the album It's Hard, The Who played two massive shows at New York's Shea Stadium, the second of which occurred on Oct. 13, 1982. Eagle Rock Entertainment recently issued the first official filming of performance No. 2, with restored footage and newly mixed sound in DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats, in a package titled "Live At Shea Stadium 1982" that includes informative, in-depth liner notes and is expertly filmed from a multitude of camera angles to capture the triumphant power and radiant glory of one of the greatest live acts ever.

Under an enormous structure spelling out WHO in bright lights, Daltrey, Townshend, John Entwistle and Jones give as good as they get on this captivating evening, responding to the fervent energy of the crowd in kind throughout and drawing blood with taut, sharp versions of "Substitute" and "I Can't Explain" for openers, with "Sister Disco" hitting just as hard. Gripping and enthralling, "See Me Feel Me" and "Love Reign O'er Me" build to dramatic crescendos that explode like well-choreographed fireworks displays, and a stirring "Baba O'Riley" is equally bombastic – all of it leading to a raucous finale of "Love Live Rock" and an embittered "Won't Get Fooled Again," as well as a lively encore of covers that saw them rip through The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and roll over combustible and bludgeoning takes on "Summertime Blues" and "Young Man Blues." And yet The Who treat lesser-known songs, such as the contemplative "I'm One" and "Drowned," with just as much importance – the furious extended jam that concludes the latter barreling down on everyone with locomotive propulsive.

Clean cut, with Townshend jumping around in striped pants and a beat-up brown leather jacket and Daltrey – ever the golden god – looking resplendent in his silver suit, this is The Who in their 30s, still young enough to be brash and bold, but less incendiary, more pristine sounding and also on the verge of losing their relevancy and becoming a nostalgia act. Reactions to It's Hard upon its release were mixed and it hasn't aged all that well, and it would be the last Who album with Entwistle and Jones, the former dying in 2002 and Jones eventually getting the heave-ho from the group. There are bonus tracks taken from The Who's first night at Shea stuffed into "Live At Shea Stadium 1982," and it's clear this release, with its imagery boasting a glossy vintage sheen, ought to be considered an indispensable document of a tumultuous period in the band's history, with the quartet tackling songs from It's Hard that they'd rarely, if ever, play live again. In the case of some, like the exceedingly dull "Cry If You Want" and the hardly memorable "Dangerous," that's just as it should be.
– Peter Lindblad

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