The Clash
Live at Shea Stadium

Punk legends the Clash had a long love affair with the city of New York that began when they toured the States for the first time in 1979. They returned a second time that year, and it was during that trip that the iconic cover of double-album masterpiece London Calling, with Paul Simonon smashing his bass, was shot at the Palladium. In May of 1981, they played 15 shows in 17 nights at Bonds, a converted clothing store in Times Square, that sold out and almost didn’t occur due to resultant riots that brought the fire marshall. And then there are the two shows they opened for the Who at Shea Stadium in 1982.

Of course, the New York the Clash loved is now long gone. The Palladium is an NYU dormitory, and Bonds is an Italian eatery. And Shea Stadium is closed and will soon be demolished. But just like the city never sleeps, so too does it never stop changing. While legit recordings of the Bonds shows have never surfaced, tapes of the Shea concerts were uncovered by Joe Strummer while packing for a move before his death. Thankfully a portion of those tapes has the seen the light as the single-disk Live at Shea Stadium—thankfully at least as historical curiosity. It’s been generally said in Clash-lore that the tour wasn’t a particularly successful one, with the Who’s audience unreceptive to the upstart punks. Still, in support of Combat Rock, these two shows came at the height of the band’s popularity in the States, and in their second home no less (though Queens certainly ain’t Manhattan).

But as the band’s only other official live release was the posthumous compendium From Here to Eternity, this is likely a more realistic document of the band’s live show, albeit out of its element and only for 1982. The set here touches on all points of the band’s catalog: “Career Opportunities” and “I Fought the Law” from their self-titled debut; “Tommy Gun” and “English Civil War” from Give ‘Em Enough Rope; the title track, “Clampdown” and “Train in Vain” from London Calling; “Police on My Back” and “Magnificent Seven” from Sandinista!; “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” from Combat Rock. The performance is a bit rocky, with “Rock the Casbah” devoid of a groove and stiffer than you’d ever think possible, and “Spanish Bombs” seems lost in the bombast of trying to playing for such an immense audience. Of course, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is done with aplomb. (The song’s video was taken from these shows and spliced in the introduction from Clash associate Kosmo Vinyl that is also included here.) But it is the closer of “I Fought the Law” that truly steals the show, three blistering minutes of the band playing with both power and precision. The album’s probably not convincing enough to change the minds of non-believers, but for those for whom the Clash still matters (and that’s many), it’s indispensable.
Stephen Slaybaugh