Though it has become, partially because of The Who, a running joke in the world of rock and roll to make fun of bands on their farewell tours, in 1982 The Who did, indeed intend on calling it a day. A myriad of factors affected this decision, including Pete Townshend's depression and drug use, as well as his feeling spent musically in a changing musical climate. Regardless of their reasons, the band toured behind a new album, It's Hard (their last for 24 years) and, not to rest on their laurels, pushed themselves on stage by having The Clash open the shows. The group filmed a pair of October shows at New York's Shea Stadium, which make up the SDBlu-ray The Who - Live At Shea Stadium 1982.
Backed behind a massive "Who" backdrop, the band was in fine, if aggressive form, for the entire performance. If they were going away, it was because they wanted to, not because they couldn't blow people off the stage anymore. The show opens with the Mod anthem, "Substitute." The band offers an energetic performance, with an animated Townshend on Telecaster. John Entwistle's bass dominates the mix here, but that is quickly fixed as the show proceeds.
A high-powered "I Can't Explain" follows, losing none of its original vigor to the passage of time. To prove the group isn't stuck in the past, the Entwistle-penned "Dangerous," one of several tracks from It's Hard, showcases a confident vocal from Roger Daltrey, who really pushes the song. Similarly, Townshend gives a passionate vocal and provides some killer lead guitar on a potent "Eminence Front" that finds Daltrey on rhythm guitar and the band locked into a tight groove.
Of course, The Who is known for their classics and there are many throughout the performance. A mini Quadrophenia set showcases a powerful rendition of "The Punk And The Godfather" while Townshend really sells "I'm One," both with his singing and playing. The placement of "Young Man Blues" after "Won't get Fooled Again" is ironic as Daltrey delivers the former's trademark scream like anything but an old man.
The encore finds the band in a loose and playful mood, playing a great set of covers, including a sizzling "Summertime Blues." Entwistle takes vocals for both "I Saw Her Standing There" and the set-closing "Twist And Shout," a fine way to end a great performance.
The video is in High Definition 16:9 (4:3 pillar boxed) and looks great. Thankfully the original aspect ratio has been preserved and the video source still looks fantastic. Audio options include DTS HD Master Audio 96/24 and LPCM Stereo. A number of bonus tracks are included, including a ferocious "My Generation."
The Who, of course, reunited at Live Aid, then again in 1989 and in the late 1990s and are now back for good. At the time though, the group was at the end of its original run, playing as if their careers depended on it. If they were going to go out, they were going to go out on top. The Who - Live At Shea Stadium 1982 is a killer performance from a great band.