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The Rockologist - by Glen Boyd

Music DVD Review: The Who - 'Live At Shea Stadium 1982'

I can still remember those radio ads like it was yesterday:

"The Who. And The Clash. They're gonna' shake up the living, and wake up the dead, baby."

The occasion was what was then billed as The Who's last hurrah back in 1982, making a stop at Seattle's long-since demolished Kingdome. The show would have been a big enough deal on its own, with the promise of The Who - once one of the greatest bands in rock, but a band seemingly content to ride its glorious past into the sunset during the post Keith Moon years - going out in one final, fiery blaze of glory.

But with the addition of The Clash - the self-proclaimed "only band that matters," and the same critical darlings widely perceived at the time to be rock and roll's newly anointed saviours - this tour now qualified as a must-see event. There was just an unshakable sense of history being made here, and of the torch being passed on from one generation to another.

The fact that those same ads played equally on both Seattle's "New Wave" station KYYX, and the more traditional "Rawk" station KISW - and during a period when rock and roll still existed in the polarized vacuum of the post-punk and disco early 1980s, with fans still deeply divided across genre lines - also represented a brilliant marketing strategy. It was the sort of positioning move designed to bring these differing factions back together in a collective group hug.

Sadly, the historical record tells a much different story. The only band playing those shows that went out like a passing comet was The Clash, who famously broke up onstage not a year later at the 1983 US Festival (in a show I actually witnessed). Meanwhile The Who have carried on - well actually, make that "off and on" - ever since. They continue to tour even now, long after losing bassist John Entwistle and with what precious little remains of Roger Daltrey's once unmatched, but now sadly diminished voice.

What most true fans, at least those being honest with themselves, should be able to agree on though is that The Who probably could have done their dignity a favor by taking a cue from The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and hanging it up after Moon died.

With all of that said, a newly released video document of The Who's first farewell tour in 1982 from Eagle Rock casts a surprising new light on this era. Though far from being a defining live document of The Who performing at their absolute peak - the 1969-70 period that produced Live at Leeds and Isle of Wight 1970 remains the holy grail there - The Who Live at Shea Stadium 1982 is still better than it has any right to be.

For those of us who were there, what we remember most from this period is also what we would most likely prefer to forget. We were all still feeling the loss of Keith Moon, and the two albums that followed his death - the understandably forgotten Face Dances and the only slightly better followup It's Hard - probably still stand to this day as the least memorable entries in an otherwise stellar catalog.

There is also the none-too-small matter of the ill-advised "look" adopted by The Who during this period. Daltrey's bouffant Billy Idol hairdo, and Townshend's striped pants and silly looking Flock of Seagulls cut may have seemed both stylishly "New Wave" and even somewhat justified (based on their Mod heritage) at the time. Viewed in retrospect here, they both just look plain ridiculous. There's good reason that we've forgotten the visual picture seen on this DVD, and why history has instead chosen to forever enshrine Daltrey as the bare chested, golden-locked rock God we remember from the Woodstock film, and Townshend as the wildly leaping madman we most often picture windmilling his ass off in that signature white jumpsuit.

Still, they sound nothing short of amazing here. John Entwistle in particular, despite being as stoic an onstage presence as ever, is just a wonder to watch on this DVD. The cameras wisely focus in often when Entwistle's fingers are doing the walking too. Despite his motionless demeanor, Entwistle's bass work at this show proves once again exactly why, as one half of rock's greatest rhythm section ever (along with Moon), he was the quiet bedrock of The Who at their earth-shaking, thunderous best.

Speaking of which, nothing should be taken away from the surprisingly remarkable work of Kenney Jones. Faced with the unenviable task of filling Keith Moon's larger than life drum stool, this had to be a next to no-win situation. Yet the evidence here proves beyond a doubt that he more than rose to the occasion in trying. This rings particularly true on the several songs from Quadrophenia in the setlist. It should be noted that when The Who originally tried songs like "Love Reign O'er Me" live several years prior, the results were a mixed, but mostly uneven bag at best. In stark contrast, Jones pretty much nails the same songs here.

But the final takeaway here, comes with the surprising ways this performance recaptures so much of the raw, dangerous and chaotic quality that made such concert recordings as 1970's Live At Leeds the acknowledged classics they are regarded as today.

Whether it was a product of breaking Jones in as Keith Moon's replacement, or something born more from a hunger to reestablish relevance as "New Wave" bands like The Clash breathed smoke down their necks, The Who sound much looser and more alive than anything I can recall witnessing during the show at Seattle's Kingdome from that same tour. By that reasoning alone, Live at Shea Stadium 1982 comes as an unexpected surprise from a much maligned era, and is a keeper to boot.

*Article first published at Blogcritics Magazine.

Music Review: The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers (Super Deluxe)' & 'From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 (DVD/CD)

Despite the fact that it boasts some of the band's best known songs, titles like "Wild Horses," "Dead Flowers" and "Bitch" - not to mention one of the biggest hits of their entire career in "Brown Sugar" - The Rolling Stones classic 1971 album Sticky Fingers still seems to get considerably less love, at least from a critical and historical perspective, than the two more celebrated albums it is sandwiched in-between.

1969's Let It Bleed would have been a hard enough act to follow. But with what would eventually come to be regarded as the Stones masterpiece in 1972's Exile on Main Street, it's easy to see how Sticky Fingers might have gotten lost - at least comparatively speaking - in the not always fair (or even entirely accurate) shuffling of rock history's playlist.

The one thing most Stones followers - both fans and critics - seem to agree on though, is that the so-called "Mick Taylor period" that produced all three of these remarkable albums is regarded as a high artistic watermark for the Stones. Many would even argue it represents their creative peak.

Two new releases out this month reexamine the legacy of Sticky Fingers from different angles, and the results are as predictably mixed as you might expect.

The 3-disc "Super Deluxe" edition of Sticky Fingers has drawn the usual howls of protest from some quarters about sound quality which are bound to occur whenever such an iconic recording is given the remaster treatment. When it comes to these types of things, pleasing everybody is near impossible and begs the question of why artists like the Stones (and the producers and engineers involved in projects like this) continue to bother repackaging this material every few years or so at all (financial considerations notwithstanding, of course). That said, to our ears, the remastered songs from the original album sound a little hot in places, but are mostly fine (or at least as fine as the MP3 versions we've heard can be).

But since the original Sticky Fingers only contains 10 songs, the real question becomes just how deep do you wade into those unreleased extras to fill the three discs here? And in this case, the answer is pretty deep. The problem with most of the studio outtakes here though, is that they represent the sort of incomplete, half-finished versions of songs we already have etched so deeply into our memory, that they become something only the most diehard Stones completist is going to really appreciate.

To really put this into perspective, the "extended" version of "Bitch" - clocking in at nearly six minutes - is less complete than the original, three and a half minute recording by a mile. Mick Jagger in particular seems to be writing the lyrics on the fly as he goes here. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the killer Keith Richards riff that opens "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" survives the cut for a dramatically shortened version here. But the jazzier flavored second half - which features some of Mick Taylor's tastiest guitar work ever - gets left on the cutting room floor.

Of all the studio outtakes, an alternate version of "Brown Sugar" with Eric Clapton is probably the most interesting. But even that is bound to suffer from the inevitable temptation to make comparisons with the original that has been pounded into our collective brains for nearly a half century now.

With that said, the live material presented here fares much better. This includes two shows from the Stones 1971 "farewell tour" of England - a series of shows played just before they fled the U.K. to become tax exiles in France. A complete performance from Leeds University takes up all of disc 3, and features 13 songs total including the standards you'd expect like "Brown Sugar," "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

The band is firing on all cylinders here, and Mick Taylor sounds particularly great on versions of "Stray Cat Blues" and "Midnight Rambler." Those songs, along with "Live With Me," "Love In Vain" and "Honky Tonk Women" are repeated on the second disc in another performance from the same tour at London's Roundhouse. While not identical, the differences between these songs from the two shows are negligible enough that you have to wonder if their inclusion here might have been mainly intended to fill space.

But speaking of live performances from the Rolling Stones 1971 U.K. farewell tour...

The latest entry in the Stones excellent From The Vault archived DVD concert series with Eagle Rock comes from - you guessed it - yet another show from that same British tour.

The difference here is that this footage comes from a rare club performance at London's legendary Marquee club just a month before the release of Sticky Fingers. The show was professionally filmed for US television, but most of the footage has remained unseen until now. Eagle Rock's From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live In 1971 comes in a nice fold-out package containing both the DVD and an audio CD, along with a booklet with pictures and liner notes from Richard Havers.

Both the audio quality and the video here live up to the usual high standard of excellence that has come to be expected from this great series.

The performances are also mostly spot-on. But, being that this is the Stones captured during the height of their most notorious chemical adventures, there is also the expected amount of occasional sloppiness. At various points, nearly everyone seems to swigging away from the jugs of booze sitting atop the amps, and Keith Richards looks like he just climbed out of bed and hasn't bathed in days. At one particularly hilarious point during one of the two alternate takes here that they apparently needed to nail "Bitch," Bobby Keys blows the intro while drunkenly slurring something about "getting the solo right."

But leaving this stuff in, rather than trying to sanitize it (which may also explain why this never made it to American TV) was absolutely the right call. It gives this short (eight songs total in the proper setlist), but undeniably sweet document of the Rolling Stones at their rawest, most stoned best (given the time period) an undeniable air of authenticity.

Stones fans will especially appreciate things like an early live version of the rarely played "I Got The Blues" (as well as the two alternate takes included in the extras) and especially Mick Taylor's amazing guitar work on songs like "Dead Flowers" and "Midnight Rambler." The latter is marred somewhat by the typically irritating "psychedelic" effects commonly used to film rock shows for TV back then, as well as some misplaced camera-work, focusing on the wrong Mick (Jagger rather than Taylor). But the close-up shots of Taylor's playing on "Dead Flowers" more than compensates for this foolishness.

From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live In 1971 captures the Rolling Stones doing what they do better than pretty much anyone else at the time, in an intimate setting during what most would agree was their creative peak.

*Article first published at Blogcritics.

Prolific singer-songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and multiple Grammy-nominee, Steven Wilson, has teamed up with Yahoo! Music for a livestream of his show on Saturday, June 13, live from The Wiltern in Los Angeles. Wilson brings his critically acclaimed visual experience to the living rooms of fans across the globe as he just set out on the first leg of his North American tour in support of his current release, his fourth solo release, Hand. Cannot. Erase. (Kscope). This is one of 365 concerts to stream over a 12-month period on the Live Nation Channel on Yahoo Screen.

Fans can tune in on June 13th at 8:00pm PT here


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