The Clash - Live At Shea Stadium (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Clash

Live At Shea Stadium (2008)

Epic/Legacy Records

Live albums always seem to be a divisive topic amongst the punk scene, which is interesting because if done right they can actually be great additions to a band’s discography. What makes a live album good is that the production has high standard of quality. Obviously, the band’s performance has to be stellar. But what can really make or break a live record is the set list. The Clash’s Live Shea Stadium manages to exceed expectations in each of these categories.

The year is 1982. On the October 13th of that year The Clash opened for The Who. Starting the night off interestingly enough was David Johansen, whose set was from 7-7:30PM. When the clock struck 8 o’clock The Clash began their fifty-minute performance. Combat Rock had come out on May 14th of that year and the band was pretty much at the pinnacle of their career. They would then go on release their last full-length Cut The Crap and in 1986 it was all over.

Despite the fact that there had been some reports of tension amongst the band members at this time in their career, they still managed to put on a phenomenal show. After the very lively introduction made by Kosmo Vinyl, The Clash come out blazing with “London Calling” and then jump right into their cover of “Police On My Back.” Then they take it down a few notches and slow down with “The Gun of Brixton” and “The Magnificent Seven,” which transitions into “Armagideon Time” and then back to The Magnificent Seven.” The whole show is like one big musical rollercoaster – and that’s just side A.

And though the set list has a significant number of songs from London Calling with songs like that record’s title track, “Clampdown,” “Spanish Bombs” and, it still spans all of the band’s discography pretty well. There’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and “Rock The Casbah” from Combat Rock, “The Magnificent Seven” and “Police On My Back” from Sandanista!, “Tommy Gun” and “English Civil War” From Give ‘Em Enough Rope, “Career Opportunities” from their self-titled album, and they ended their set with their fantastically updated cover of “I Fought The Law.”

But what is just as important, if not more important than The Clash’s set list for the performance was the transitions between each song. They didn’t just play a song and then talk for a moment to the audience and then start the next one. The show flows seamlessly. The band was a finely tuned punk rock machine here. Sometimes Joe Strummer would go on with his famous preaching to the audience and sometimes he had fun with them while the rest of the band just continued to play their instruments. Whenever he does speak though there is something reassuring and comforting about his voice. Even in the recording his tone makes you feel like everything is going to be okay.

Live Shea Stadium gives those of us who didn’t have the pleasure of seeing The Clash live a chance to hear what their shows were like. It sheds light on just how well they could play a wide range of their songs live. The production quality is so clear that it actually feels like you are another one of the thousands of audience members losing their minds at what they are witnessing. Live Shea Stadium is a vital piece of punk rock history that captures what it was like to be in the presence of one of the greatest musical groups of latter half of the twentieth century.