Seeing a band like The Who in concert is more than experiencing an iconic group in action. It’s a moment in musical history. The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982 captures one of those moments right on the cusp of a chasm opening up between the members. You might even think this performance had a special intensity to it, giving an edge otherwise missing from their normal shows.
Rough for the folks in the band, but we the audience reap the benefit.
The Who are known for more than just their music. It’s their energy, bravado, and rebellion that cemented them in the spotlight all those years ago. While the years may have passed on by, they never pulled back.
During this show you can see lead singer Roger Daltrey’s microphone twirling skills in full swing (pun intended). He could knock a beer can off an amp at 20 feet. Lead guitarist Pete Townshend’s hurricane guitar action is also there in all its glory. (P.S. When watching this, picture the fact that years later, Townshend impales his hand on the whammy bar during one of those legendary moments.) The last remaining original member, John Entwistle, otherwise known as ‘Thunderfingers” or ‘The Ox,” does what he does best, which is stand like a statue while playing the bass faster than most people play guitar.
Seeing those three front and center is a special thing, proving once again internal chaos cannot stop harmony.
The ghost of Keith Moon is surely felt during some of their classic tracks, like “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” While watching the show, you are reminded also about how many of their song intros are woven into your brain, a tightly woven piece of the musical fabric of our time. “Baba O’Riley,” “Eminence Front,” and the previously mentioned “Won’t Get Fooled Again” were all iconic long before some of them were clipped to the title sequences of the popular CSI TV franchise. Within seconds of each song starting you know the joyful tune about to come crashing in.
It’s actually when “Eminence Front” comes on about eight songs in where I felt the group really begins to hit their stride. Opening up shows can always be tough, and the bigger they are, the more difficult to feel your groove with the audience. But it was that song when the gears all began to slide into place.
Another interesting thing to watch is the balance between Daltrey and Townshend. On stage, the power bounces back and forth between them, and in my opinion Townshend’s voice is on point more of the show than Daltrey’s (which Daltrey admits to feeling rough later in the show). But behind the scenes, it really was Townshend’s creative vision and musical poetry that fueled the group. Maybe that was another part of the reason the band was on the edge of a hiatus right as they plowed through one of their most historic performances.
A crisply captured piece of history, the hair, fashion, and entire flavor of the concert takes you right back to the early ’80s. Townshend could easily be mistaken for a groupie for Flock of Seagulls, while Daltrey struts and sweats his way through the entire show in a shiny white power suit. The man is all business.
For longtime fans of The Who (of which I consider myself one, seeing them three times live), The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982 is a rare treat. You hear their hits, new materials of the time, and some great reminders of their blues influences. It’s a great mixture of musical ingredients coming together inside one of the most legendary bands in rock and roll history.
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