Friday, October 17, 2008

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (Sony, 2008)

Punk rockers The Clash were at the height of their popularity and also near the end when they opened for The Who before 70,000 at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY. Having outlasted nearly all other punk bands and gaining mainstream respect with top-ten records, the band was falling apart due to personality conflicts and substance abuse, leading to the sacking of original drummer Topper Headon. So this amounts to a live recording of their Custer-ian last stand, and it certainly does nothing to blemish the band's potent reputation. Songs from the group's entire output are played with force and power, with highlights being Mick Jones very emotional vocal on the driving rocker "Police On My Back" and Paul Simonon's ominous gangster opus "The Guns of Brixton." But the focus of the recording is on Joe Strummer, who is truly in his element as front man, foil and master of ceremonies. Counting off a ferocious "London Calling" Strummer leads the band through their paces, stopping to play some of their beloved reggae on a medley of "Magnificent Seven" and "Armageddon Time." They make full use of their 50 minute opening slot, finishing up with a bruising version of Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law", a song that belongs as much to them as it does to its creator. This is a fine recording of The Clash at their most popular. It's hard to imagine a band going from squatting in an abandoned London flat to playing stadiums in the course of six years, but that was the power of The Clash.

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