Playing in the same venue they performed in 33 years earlier, though minus a few smoke bombs and guitar smashings this time around, Brit dinosaurs the Who performed with a who cares attitude, mocking their age and churning out the hits. By the end of the 2-1/2-hour show, the Who had embraced their long and illustrious history, proving these kids were still all right.
The band, with no record to promote, seemed at ease playing rock ‘n’ roll staples — singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend sharing smiles and appearing to have patched up old wounds. They appeared to have grown comfortable with one another.
Covering a 36-year history, the band put together a set list that would be familiar to any listener of classic rock over the past two decades.
The boys got into full stride on their third number, “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” from back in 1965, and then Townshend gave a brief intro for “Relay,” explaining how the song came into creation.
It was these anecdotal moments of the birthing of songs that many longtime fans found informative and funny.
“Baba O’Riley,” from “Who’s Next,” was the first warhorse of the night, with flashing lights and the trademark Townshend windmill and splits. Few in the cavernous bowl were still in their teenage wasteland years, yet the lyric still resonated with those old and wealthy enough to afford the pricey box seats.
The band’s 1973 “Quadrophenia” release had a strong presence, with three songs from the disc making an appearance: “Drowned,” with Townshend joyously noodling on acoustic guitar; “”The Real Me” and; “5:15.” It was in the last number that bassist John Entwistle put together an impressive display that drew even Townshend’s attention and appreciation.
Even though many of these songs have been played to death, it didn’t stop the band from giving a new twist to an old favorite like “Magic Bus.” With a bit of a hip-hop beat, the song was as catchy as ever, and then Townshend, halfway through, suddenly said he couldn’t keep up and started it once again.
Daltrey laughed at the interruption, and it was easy to tell that that this semi-jam session was definitely on the impromptu side. Later, Townshend would say that he knew there would be complaints that the song went on too long, but he was too old to care what others thought.
Daltrey, who has a hard time hitting the high notes he once sang with ease, is the oldest of the three at 56, yet he is always a showman. He still flings the microphone in high, looping circles, unbuttons his shirt and acts every bit the rock star.