The Clash are probably the only class-of-’77 punk band that could get away with recording a live album at a Major League Baseball stadium, because they were always more than a punk band. Early on, they began incorporating everything from reggae to soul to the then-fledgling hip-hop into the loud-and-fast punk ethic. As a result, they were able to pull off that rare punk-rock balancing act of retaining their credibility with the base while getting big enough to play a place like Shea Stadium.
This 1982 show, part of a tour opening for The Who, is slick, tight, and professional. The setlist leans heavily toward the band’s later period, with the majority of tracks coming from 1979’s London Calling, 1980’s Sandinista!, and 1982’s Combat Rock. Even the few earlier tracks included (“Tommy Gun,” “Career Opportunites”) are given an arena-rock makeover. Their music had always had strong pop inclinations, so the transition from clubs to ballparks was not an awkward one. The band by this time had mastered dynamics, and when “The Magnificent Seven” segues flawlessly into “Armagideon Time” they come off as a well-rehearsed, well-oiled machine.
Had the Clash not imploded shortly after this set was recorded, they could have easily had a second career as one of the great arena acts of the ‘80s. Of course, they broke up around the time U2 started to take over the world, and Live at Shea Stadium makes the unlikely case for the Clash as predecessors to the modern-day, bigger-than-Jesus U2 as well as the early, raw one.