Manchester Evening News Arena

The grown-ups are alright...

While it’s rabidly unfair to judge The Who by their age – the poetry of them only having themselves to blame for Rock’s obsession with youth is still delicious. And while they can’t even be beaten with the stick of a

penny-pinching reunion tour – the comparative dignity of the latterday Stones vs Blondie, even the extended sabbatical can be made to work to a

band’s advantage.

No, what really annoys about The Who is their sheer audacity – the fact that they still passionately believe that this is their right, as a group at the height of their powers. Yet on tonight’s evidence, it’s not something that the legions of audience have the slightest trouble swallowing. However powerful prejudice can be, it’s still no great shakes in the face of sheer Rock ridiculousness (‘Pinball Wizard’) or sheer Rock intent (the opening triptych of early stunners ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ and ‘Substitute’).

They certainly look the part. Townshend in his customary all-over black save for some Dylan-aping polka dots. Entwhistle unabashed in his Cuban heels. Daltrey – if you squint – still looking about 22 years old. As for little Zac Starkey – the word from the cheap seats is that he’s a more skilled drummer that Pops ever was. And make no mistake, other than the odd shameful inflation (‘My Generation’ in particular, bends in the middle at such length) and cringeworthy gaffe (Daltrey’s musings on the fragility of life before ‘5:15’), The Who play like their life depends on it.

So no matter that they used to be mighty. Tonight, we’ve at least found out that the grown-ups are alright.

Daniel Martin