Friday, November 21, 2008

The Clash -- Live At Shea Stadium (2008)

The Clash -- Live At Shea Stadium (Epic/Legacy)

So we finally have a legitimate release of a full Clash live show. It’s too bad it’s not one of the best Clash live shows.

This recording is taken from the 1982 gig where our heroes opened for The Who. This was the Combat Rock era, when the band was at the peak of its popularity. But the band was splintering, for both musical and personal reasons.

One thing that is immediately striking is the composition of the set list: Early single/first album: 2 songs; Give ‘Em Enough Rope: 2; London Calling: 5; later single: 1; Sandinista: 2; Combat Rock: 2. This gives you an idea of where the band’s collective head was at around this time.

As shows go, this certainly wasn’t a bad one, but I’m sure most big Clash fans have heard a prior bootleg that has a lot more going for it. I think that Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune makes a good point that Terry Chimes (a/k/a Tory Crimes) taking over for Topper Headon lead to a drop off in the drumming. Chimes is alright, but, for the most part, he was not very forceful.

This would explain why most of the better performances during the gig were songs like "The Guns of Brixton" and the blended pair "The Magnificent Seven" and "Armagideon Time". Here, the rhythms were funkier and Chimes seems to take to them more. Yes, this does seem odd, since Chimes cut his teeth on the earlier powerhouse rocking material from 1977.

That being said, "Spanish Bombs" isn’t exactly a burner, and it’s the worst performance on the album. It sounds like it’s in the wrong key and the band can’t get a handle on how to tackle it (more forceful? more chipper?). Yet this is followed by a pretty good take on "Clampdown".

The other disappointment on the album is "London Calling". Granted, this song is so perfect on album, that recreating its magnitude on stage was never easy. Still, the band sounds tentative.

I don’t think this is due to lack of commitment or engagement. It’s hard to imagine Joe Strummer ever being less than intense, and Mick Jones is spirited in his vocal turns. I think it’s more a by-product of playing in such an unwieldy venue. You can hear the cheers in the background, but this had to be a crowd that mixed in fans with some geezers looking at their watches and wondering when the guys with broad accents and combat duds would get off the stage for The Who.

This is fairly entertaining, but I hope that someday, some better full gigs come out legitimately. Until then, I’ve got a 1979 show from the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago to enjoy.

No comments: