Almost 50 years after forming The Who, and now almost 70 years old, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are still cranking out the hits at high volume. This time round, though, fans at the O2 in Dublin had to wait to hear Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Pinball Wizard and Baba O'Riley. First, there was the main business of the evening: performing their 1973 album Quadrophenia in its entirety.
The Quadrophenia and More tour, which kicked off its European leg on Saturday night after a US jaunt, sees the ageing rockers tackle their most musically and thematically ambitious album, concerning the misadventures of Jimmy, a young Mod suffering from a mental condition you won’t find in any encylopedia.
It was their second concept album – their first was 1969's Tommy – and though it was a powerful evocation of the Mod era in Britain of the mid-1960s, and an insightful study of teenage alienation, it was dismissed by many it as an overblown prog-rock opus.
The old mods were out in force as the band went straight into the album, backed by Townshend's younger brother Simon on guitar and vocals, Pino Palladino on bass and Scott Devours on drums, replacing regular drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo's kid) who has a tendon injury.
Daltrey and Townsend risked injury throughout – burst bloodvessels from bellowing out the high notes, tennis elbow from Townshend’s trademark “windmill” guitar moves, and having an eye taken out by Daltrey’s swinging microphone. At one stage, Townshend tripped over his guitar lead while making a stage lunge – potentially lethal when you’re a rock ‘n’ roll pensioner.
A high point came during 5.15, when the band jammed along with the ghost of bassist John Entwistle, who died in 2002 from a heart attack. Another highlight came when former drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978 after an overdose of prescription drugs, appeared on screen to deliver his original vocals for Bell Boy.