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The Who – Live At Shea Stadium 1982, Blu-ray (1982/2015)

The Who – Live At Shea Stadium 1982, Blu-ray (1982/2015)

Cast: Roger Daltrey (vocals); Pete Townsend (guitar, vocals); John Entwhistle (bass guitar); Kenney Jones (drums, percussion); Tom Gorman (piano, keyboards)
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment VSBD30982 [6/30/15]
TrackList: Substitute; I Can’t Explain; Dangerous; Sister Disco; The Quiet One; It’s Hard; Eminence Front; Behind Blue Eyes; Baba O’Riley; I’m One; The Punk And The Godfather; Drowned; Tatoo; Cry If You Want; Who Are You; Pinball Wizard; See Me Feel Me; Love Reign O’er Me; Long Live Rock; Won’t Get Fooled Again; Young Man Blues; Naked Eye; I Saw Her Standing There; Summertime Blues; Twist And Shout; Bonus Tracks: Substitute; I Can’t Explain; My Generation; A Man Is A Man; 5:15
Video: 16×9 for 1080i HD color
Audio: DTS-HD MA 96/24 surround; PCM 2.0
Length: 146 minutes
Rating:   Audio: ****    Video: ****   Overall: ****

As a live group, the Who were explosive and powerful. Roger Daltrey’s howling vocal, Pete Townsend’s screeching guitar and John Entwhistle’s powerful bass were backed by the propulsive, frenetic drumming of Keith Moon. The combination of musical artistry and rock and roll theatrics was unparalleled. Moon’s premature (but not unexpected) death in 1978 cast a dark shadow on the Who and in particular the prospects of future touring. The band continued with Kenny Jones at the drum kit, but things were changed forever. While The Who celebrates their 50th anniversary (what is it with these geriatric British rock bands?), only Daltrey and Townsend remain.

Eagle Rock Entertainment has released a Blu-ray of an early 1980s Who concert. Live At Shea Stadium 1982 is an opportunity to see the band post-Keith Moon. The nearly two-and-a half-hour performance is a retrospective of the brilliant songwriting of Pete Townsend. The band (including Jones on drums and keyboardist Tom Gorman) opens with early hits “Substitute” and the punk-like “I Can’t Explain”. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of electricity until they break into “Sister Disco, and the always volatile duo of Daltrey and Townsend start to click. Townsend’s guitar intensity on hypnotic cuts like “Eminence Front” (where he also handles lead vocals) is palpable. Then the iconic standards kick in. The crowd goes nuts at the intro to “Behind Blue Eyes”. They remain in a state of exhilaration when the familiar keyboard loop to “Baba O’Riley” initiates. Daltrey is the perfect vehicle for the melancholic and anger-filled Townsend narratives. The trio of consecutive Quadrophenia cuts illustrates this. “I’m One” is infused with lyrical beauty, while “The Punk Meets  The Godfather” and “Drowned’ constitute undiluted rock angst.

A contemporary hit (“Who Are You”) has taken on a commercial life of its own (on the CSI television show), but it was a huge comeback for the group.  A two-song Tommy segment of “Pinball Wizard (with the furious guitar strumming) and achingly lovely “See Me Feel Me” is as stunning now as it was at Woodstock. Pete’s own theme, “Love Reign O’er Me” (and Roger can still hit those high notes) establishes a resonant intimacy with the crowd. Now The Who is ready to blow the audience away. “Long Live Rock”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Summertime Blues” (a hit from their Live At Leeds album) and the always popular “Twist And Shout” seal the deal. In between, they break out a tempo-shifting cover of Mose Allison’s “Young Man’s Blues”. Some of the bonus tracks are uplifting. The eternal tale of the stuttering punk (“My Generation”) showcases those unbelievable Entwhistle bass runs. On 5:15, the band is at their best (especially Townsend) with a syncopated arrangement.

The WhoLive At Shea 1982 has been re-mastered and both the PCM 2.0 and 96/24 surround are excellent. The piercing guitar tones and Daltrey’s gruff voice are captured with crisp acoustics. The keyboard mix is unobtrusive. The video has clarity and does not employ gratuitous audience shots. The focus is on Daltrey and Townsend whose energy drives the show.

—Robbie Gerson

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