The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 Blu-ray Review: Long Live Rock

Reading up on the Who, it appears what was intended to be a tour in support of It’s Hard became a farewell tour because of Pete Townshend’s personal issues and the friction they contributed to between he and his bandmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. Although they have reunited many times since, and Daltrey and Townshend, the last living original members, are currently touring in celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary, it’s fantastic to see this document of the Who still at the peak of their abilities.

Taken from their October 13, 1982 performance, the second of a two-night stand at New York’s Shea Stadium, the Who play as a five-piece combo joined by drummer Kenney Jones, on what would be his farewell tour from the band, and Tim Gorman on piano/keyboards, which he also played on It’s Hard.

They play the anticipated greatest hits from their entire career, from “I Can’t Explain” to “Who Are You” and tracks from classics albums such as Who’s Next and the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia. “Drowned” is a highlight with the arrangement and Daltrey’s harmonica giving the song a slight country feel. Townshend cuts loose during an extended jam on the bridge.

The real treat for hardcore Who fans is seeing them playing latter-day songs that are now considered rarities like ‘Sister Disco” and Entwistle singing lead on “The Quiet One.” They played four tracks from It’s Hard, including the instant classic “Eminence Front” with Townshend on lead vocals. Speaking of rarities, “I’m One” and “The Punk and the Godfather” would be dropped from the setlist after this show.

If this was the only concert of the band on record, there’d be no doubt why they are rock ‘n’ roll legends. Many of the songs are brilliant in terms of songwriting and performance. Daltrey is a strong and evocative vocalist. Townshend is a skilled guitarist, firing off both simple and complex licks with the same ease, and the windmill just looks so damn cool. Entwistle, who Daltrey calls “Thunderfingers,” is a powerhouse that helps drive the rhythm but with such talent and force the bass rises to the top of the arrangement like a lead instrument. Jones may get a bad rap for not being the late Keith Moon, but no one could fill that role. He’s more than competent with his playing here.

Considering the state of ticket prices today, it’s surprising to see so many kids close to the stage considering they would never be able to afford it nowadays. Daltrey twice tells the crowd to take it easy, no doubt with the memories of the tragic events in Cincinnati ’79 always in his thoughts when he performs.

Listening to the band, they sound timeless, but watching the video on this SD Blu-ray there’s no escaping this is from the early ’80s. Daltrey and Entwistle look grown up and are fashionable wearing suits. The former is a standout in his silver metallic ensemble. Townshend seems to be recapturing his youth with his leather jacket and his hairstyle.

The video also shows its age. Color bleeds appear if an object under bright lights moves too fast for the technology. Halfway through the set, someone found the state-of-the-art effects of the time, which are now very dated. They can be used to create trails coming off objects and a stuttering appearance as if under a strobe light.

After 112 minutes, the band takes a bow and then plays an encore for 22 minutes. They might be at their most raucous during “Young Man Blues.” They conclude with three covers and Entwistle has a more prominent vocal presence, singing counterpoint on “Summertime Blues” and lead on “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout.”

As is typical, there’s two audio options, LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD MA 5.1. The former plays louder but is not as dynamic. I much prefer the fuller sound of the 5.1, which fills the surrounds with music and audience ambiance. Plus, the subwoofer better showcases Entwistle’s bass playing.

The are five Bonus Tracks (19 min) taken from the previous night. The two songs that began the set, ‘Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain,” don’t seem much different in terms of performance, so it’s not clear why they are included. Then from later in the set is “My Generation” with Entwistle’s sweet bass runs, “A Man in A Man,” and the epic “5:15.”

If you are Who fan and wonder if you should buy Live at Shea Stadium 1982, “you better you better you bet.”

“Behind Blue Eyes”:

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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