Tight, taut and terrific fun.
Chris Jones 2008
Since the Beatles played there in 1965, New York's Shea Stadium has come to represent the place where British bands could rest assured that they'd 'cracked' the States. This gig, recorded in 1982 while the Clash were supporting the Who on their US stadium tour, highlights the band at the point where they were on the cusp of falling apart. But it also shows them to be every inch the equal of the headliners in being able to hold on to an audience of this size.
Of course the contradictions are many. Here's a group that LOVED to connect, one-to-one with their fans (and whose previous Stateside jaunt had seen them play in intimate venues, more in keeping with their supposed status as punk purists), playing to 40,000 people. But on the other hand this is a snapshot of a band who could turn their hand to anything from funk, dub or rockabilly while barely pausing for breath. For the first two check the version of Armagideon Time, sandwiched into The Magnificent Seven. It has also to be said that the boys' guerrilla chic (they were promoting Combat Rock) now looks decidedly gauche. But sonically, they're tight, taut and terrific fun.
One suspects the tapes have been somewhat tinkered with, the whole thing has a spacey ambience that sounds a little too polished, and the audience noise seems at odds with the stage exhortations from Strummer. yet the only real sad point is the version of Rock The Casbah, where Terry Chimes' drums can't replace those of the song's main author, Topper Headon, who'd been ousted just prior to the tour for his drug problems. He claims to this day that a video of the band performing it on the tour pushed him further into dependency. However the set list is chock-full of hits: the cream of both London Calling (Guns Of Brixton, Working For The Clampdown, London Calling) and Combat Rock peppered with singles and earlier prime punk cuts, all topped off with an irresistible I Fought The Law..
Very soon Mick Jones would jump ship and the fairytale was over. Yet Live At Shea Stadium stands as a testament to the belief of four young men, that rock and roll really might make a difference: with guitars!