Released: October 7, 2008
Label: Sony BMG Music
By: Shawn Dullye
In their heyday, The Clash were infamous for their high-energy, no holds barred, live shows – Joe Strummer violently pouring his soul into every lyric while Mick Jones tore away at his guitar like machinegun fire; Topper Headon’s swinging drum fills accompanying Paul Simonon’s fuzz-filled, walking bass lines – truly a memorable experience for anyone fortunate enough to have witness this intensity in person.
Unfortunately for Live at Shea Stadium, the performance on the album took place in October of 1982. While this was the biggest tour for The Clash (opening for The Who), the band was going through much inner turmoil, and all but at the end of their career. Topper Headon had been fired only months before, and Mick Jones was only months away from his termination from the group.
The tension in the band is apparent throughout most of the concert by their lack of enthusiasm, especially on cuts like “London Calling” and “I Fought the Law.” Granted, Strummer will throw in a wail every once in a while, but it doesn’t negate the fact that his vocals sound agitated and uncommitted. There is also Terry Chimes’ bland drumming, which could never match the chameleonic style of the “Human Drum Machine” Topper Headon (case-in-point, Chimes’ poor attempt at reggae drumming on “Armagideon Time” and he is off-tempo on “Rock the Casbah,” though the track sounds awful all-around). The biggest disappointment is the pitiful version of “Train in Vain,” when compared to the studio recording, is emotionless and all filler.
There are a couple of high points where the band manages to pump some life into their performance, such as “Career Opportunities,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “Police on My Back.” And credit must be given to the recording quality on the album because it is remarkably crisp and clear for being over a quarter of a century old.
Before spending money on this, check out the album bootleg compilation “From Here to Eternity: The Clash.” Released in 1999, comprised of shows from The Clash circa 1978-1982, it showcases The Clash in all their raw ferocity.