In 1982, The Who released their first “farewell” album, It’s Hard, and undertook their first “farewell” tour. Neither was the most beloved chapter in Who lore. Many fans, and certain band members, didn’t rate Kenney Jones an adequate replacement for the recently deceased Keith Moon. Pete seemed begrudging about the whole thing and was wrestling with his own issues with substance abuse and depression. The new material he offered to The Who wasn’t nearly as strong as the songs he kept for his own records, which meant set lists were peppered with less-than-classics.
Quite a few of these issues didn’t matter that much when The Who took their act to New York’s Shea Stadium on October 12 and 13. Perhaps it was playing at such a historic venue (on the 13th, they whipped out two songs from The Beatles’ first album—that’s two more than they played from their own two first albums combined!). Perhaps having The Clash as opening act lit a fire under them. As evidenced from Eagle Vision’s new disc, The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982, The Who didn’t exactly put on the ultimate performance during their NYC stint, but they do burn through quite a lot of it, particularly when playing more recent material like “Sister Disco” and “The Quiet One”—both blinding showcases for John Entwistle—or treasured obscurities like “The Punk and the Godfather”, “Drowned”, and “Young Man Blues”. Otherwise, The Who mostly deliver the professionalism that makes the show a good listen, if not an exhilarating one. Mid set, that professionalism slips a tad with a version of “Tattoo” that suffers from some dodgy harmonizing and a general lack of enthusiasm over the number, but that kind of façade drop had always been an integral component of their shows—nobody ever wanted to The Who to be nice (plus, the song is their best as far as I’m concerned). A slack rendition of “Naked Eye” and a monotonous one of “Cry If You Want” are a little less easy to forgive.
An interesting facet of the movie is how it reduces great, big Shea Stadium to a more intimate venue by not dwelling on the elaborate stage set up, leaving most of the huge audience in shadow (we only really glimpse the first few rows), and muting their screams. It creates the illusion that The Who said “farewell” by playing a mid-sized club.
The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 arrives on DVD and Standard Definition Blu-ray. That means it was shot on video (complete with some awful “slo-mo” video effects), so the picture cannot be in hi-def, but the music can at least be delivered without loss. As far as video goes, it doesn’t look bad. The audio is pretty good, though I wish there was more John in the mix. The show from the 13th is included in its entirety, as are five bonus numbers from the 12th, three of which are songs not performed the following night (“A Man Is a Man” and the essentials “My Generation” and “5:15”). Too bad the other two songs exclusive to that night (“Magic Bus” and “Athena”) aren’t here too, but overall, Live at Shea Stadium 1982 shines as positive a light on The Who’s rocky 1982 as one can expect.
Get The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 on Amazon.com here: