Blu-ray Review: The Last Play at Shea

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Three years after the full concert was released on Blu-ray and DVD as Live at Shea Stadium (by Sony Legacy), the feature-length documentary about Billy Joel’s 2008 concerts at the legendary stadium arrives on Blu-ray. Virgil Films and Entertainment has issued Last Play at Shea and it makes a terrific companion piece to the concert video.

Last Play tells both the story of Billy Joel’s career and the history of Shea Stadium, with a particular focus on the New York Mets. The combination of baseball and rock music might’ve been awkward in other hands, but director Paul Crowder makes it work. Over the course of 90 minutes, we get a sense of what Shea meant to the residents of NYC, whether they’re Mets fans, music fans, or both. We also learn just what these gigs meant to Joel, who clearly regards the guest star-studded shows as a true peak in his career.

In addition to various professional and personal associates of Joel’s (including ex-wife Christie Brinkley and their daughter Alexa Ray), there are featured interview clips with many of the guests who joined him onstage. While it’s a treat to hear some reminiscing from the likes of Tony Bennett, Steven Tyler, and Garth Brooks, for many the highlight will be the 11th hour arrival of Paul McCartney. Of course, The Beatles figure quite largely in Shea’s history, having given birth to the stadium-sized rock concert on the very same field back in 1965. We see archival footage of the Fabs from their sold-out debut at the venue.

Viewers who like baseball as much as Billy Joel’s music will love seeing recent interviews with ex-Mets like Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Daryl Strawberry, and Mike Piazza. There are also emotional accounts from September 12, 2001, when Shea was used as a staging area for recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Perhaps the most poignant moments of the film involve longtime Shea groundskeeper Pete Flynn. Not only did Flynn drive the Beatles onto the field back in ’65, he got to reunite with McCartney upon his arrival at Joel’s in-progress concert. Flynn worked the grounds at Shea for the entire time that it was home to the Mets (1964-2008).

Last Play at Shea offers a crisp, 1080p visual presentation and DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. The special features include a pair of complete songs from the concert (“You May Be Right,” “Everybody Loves You Now”). They’re a nice teaser, but fans will surely want to snag the full concert release if they don’t already have it. There’s also time-lapse footage of Shea coming down (with Citi Field gleaming brightly behind it). An interview with Joel, seen in short clips throughout the documentary, is presented in its uninterrupted entirely (20 minutes). The Blu-ray package also includes a standard DVD.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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