TAMPA - The Who's feats always seemed superhuman. Think of Keith Moon's manic drumming or Roger Daltrey's incredible scream at the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again."
Think of Pete Townshend's windmill guitar style or John Entwistle's frenetic but measured bass playing.
Age proved The Who all too human. And Friday night's performance of "Quadrophenia," Townshend's demanding historical/psychological rock opera, required 10 extra musicians, a filmed narrative and a pair of actors to present.
But an Ice Palace crowd of 10,050 saw the best possible performance of this difficult piece.
Townshend stuck mostly to acoustic guitar during the show's first half, and Daltrey's voice seemed hoarse - hardly surprising as this was the next-to-last stop on the current tour.
Simon Townshend replicated the guitar lines his brother played on the "Quadrophenia" album 24 years ago. It was hard not to feel a twinge of sadness seeing the old champion handing over his duties.
But if there was any doubt, Townshend asserted his primacy with a startling, primarily solo, acoustic version of "Drowned." It lost none of the electric energy of the original, and Townshend's rapid-fire strumming brought cheers.
"I've Had Enough" and "5:15" were where the band kicked into high gear. The latter featured a slashing Townshend solo, preceded by some marvelous runs from Entwistle, whose playing skills, and ability to stand stock still, remain intact.
Daltrey nursed his voice throughout, not surprising when one considers what he's required to do on "Love Reign O'er Me," the finale of "Quadrophenia." His performance on this number was nothing short of heroic.
A five-piece horn section covered Entwistle's brass and many of Townshend's synthesizer lines from the album, and it was a particularly welcome addition to "Is It in My Head."
Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, couldn't actually fill the late Moon's shoes. No mortal could, at least not one with only two arms. But he powered the band along in energetic fashion.
P.J. Proby, an American who had a string of English hits and a scandal involving split trousers in the 1960s, hammed it up nicely in the role of the Godfather.
"Quadrophenia," which originally seemed to end with the protagonist's suicide, now has a positive, if vague, ending, which suggests a spiritual quest more akin to "Tommy."
But Townshend finally has fulfilled his quest for The Who to present this work on stage successfully.