Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Who 17: Who’s Last and Shea Stadium

Following Pete Townshend’s statement saying the band was done, there were rumors of a live album in the works that would encompass The Who’s entire career. Instead, the following Xmas saw the release of Who’s Last. Instead of a retrospective, the album consisted solely of performances taken from the 1982 farewell tour. And since it was on MCA, nothing from the ‘80s was included.

This is the showbiz Who, going through the motions, delivering the hits, with Pete playing the Schecter Telecaster copy that always sounded like his chorus pedal was jammed in the full position. It takes balls to include songs already perfected on Live At Leeds, and superior versions of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” were on The Kids Are Alright. Most of the tracks are padded front and back with audience noise. At least John Entwistle gets the last word with his shredding vocal on “Twist And Shout”, and Kenney Jones plays with more fire throughout the album than he demonstrated on any of his Who studio recordings. Except for the backing tapes to “Who Are You” and the Who’s Next tunes, any keyboards heard are provided by Tim Gorman, cruelly called “Jim Gorman” in the liner notes, adding to the shoddiness of the package. Despite occasional moments—such as the rockabilly coda to “Long Live Rock”—Who’s Last proved to be about as inspired as its title.

It took forty years, but they finally got around to releasing a complete show from this tour, but only after it had been released on DVD and Blu-ray that went out of print. They weren’t the first band to play Shea Stadium since the Beatles, but they were certainly the biggest, cramming the field over two nights. As it was about three weeks into the tour, they were up to speed and not yet worn out. (The final show from Toronto has been on video for years, and throughout that Pete looks as uncomfortable as his haircut.)

Live At Shea Stadium 1982 is taken from the second night, and being able to hear a complete set already puts it above Who’s Last. The mix is good, making the keyboards more audible, especially when they pan across the stereo spectrum. Roger’s in good voice as ever, Pete and John less so, but Pete’s sobriety kept him on track. And since they weren’t just playing the hits, but promoting the new album, the setlist is more balanced. Once they get the newer songs out of the way, they start dipping into the past. Pete does a verse of “I’m One” solo before the band crashes in for “The Punk And The Godfather”, and “Drowned” jams for nine minutes. They even play “Tattoo” for some reason, though Pete blows the first chorus, and include “I Saw Her Standing There” in the encores. It’s a long two hours, and not stellar, but better than what we had.

The Who Who’s Last (1984)—2
The Who
Live At Shea Stadium 1982 (2024)—3

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