Twenty-five years ago today, I saw The Clash for the last time. This was the "faux" Clash, after they'd fired Mick Jones and replaced him with two young lads who together didn't equal one Mick.
Los Lobos opened the show. This was before La Bamba, before their first full-length major-label album. The amazing Internet tells me they opened with "I Got to Let You Know" and closed with "Why Do You Do?" Malcolm McLaren, of all people, then took the stage, offering up "Buffalo Gals" and others. Finally, on came Joe and Paul and the other guys they'd brought with them. Joel Selvin was there:
With the rest of the band dressed in black, Strummer looked especially resplendent in his bright red sport coat and white trousers. He certainly did his part, rolling around on the stage, thrashing upside down on his back, his kicking legs the only part of his body visible above the surging mass in front of the stage....
In introducing ["Police and Thieves"], Strummer delivered one of his trademark tirades on culture and the folk process in popular music. "This is punk meets reggae," he explained, "not white reggae. We add some of our own culture to it, so this is no ripoff. I'm talking to you Sting," he shouted, referring to the vocalist-songwriter for the Police, whose work has sometimes been accused of misappropriating Jamaican rhythmic ideas.
What's a Clash Concert without a few polemics? It helps lend a little of the delicious flavor of an anti-war rally to the proceedings and underlines the band's commitment to political struggle and rock-scene infighting. "We do have a culture," Strummer informed the crowd, "and I'm quite sure it's not Van Halen."
Strummer was one of the greatest of live performers, and I saw The Clash several times. As a concert, this was the worst of the lot ... I doubt I would have attended if I hadn't been asked to by a friend of a friend. But Strummer was at the peak of his powers. He knew this wasn't the "real" Clash, that the new guys weren't quite up to the job, that he had to win the crowd over in ways that weren't necessary in previous times. So he busted his ass, trying to will the show into being worthy of The Clash. Honestly, I think he succeeded.