There's no embarrassment at the Who. No reason to hide behind your pricey seat and wince at what has befallen one of your childhood heroes. If they were your contemporaries, the chances are they look and move a whole lot better than you do. If they are more your parents' vintage you can feel comfortable seeing they have neither a musical nor style equivalent of a comb-over to pretend they are still "down with the kids".
It's not like the '80s when tragic figures, often hitherto unknown "blues legends" or still rattled casualties of the '60s, were flown (economy class) to Australia to pick up some pin money in the pubs. These days we have higher expectations, and those expectations are in the main met with quality sound, performers who cannot just stand up but give a fair approximation of their original moves and long, hit-filled shows.
The Who, or at least the half-Who - surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend with a band of some long-term and some recent additions - do that and more. Daltrey's foghorn of a voice still packs some heat, though he is no closer to being someone who can do sensitive or subtle. Townshend windmills his arms, leaps occasionally and, more importantly, can still play with precision and invention. The volume may not be Live At Leeds extremes but you may go home with your ears still ringing.
The least likely trouble spot with a band this rich in material is the songs, and not surprisingly the two-hour show (which unusually on this world tour did not have a second encore of Magic Bus) hit all bases. There was the killer early days opening trio of I Can't Explain, Substitute and Anyway Anyhow Anywhere; there was the synth-flecked mid-period songs such as Who Are You, You Better You Bet and Won't Get Fooled Again; there were Quadrophenia and Tommy brackets, and new songs both excellent (Real Good Looking Boy) and all right (Old Red Wine).
OK, we did have to deal with unnecessary and unnecessarily long (but hardly new) noodling in songs such as Sparks and Won't Get Fooled Again. But as a big rock show it was all professional and hard to find fault with.
Except for one thing, which could well be out of the band's control anyway. There was a curious lack of passion, of drama really, that would pull us into this show emotionally. Compared with tours in recent years by Who contemporaries Arthur Lee of Love, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Solomon Burke, this was, if not quite sterile, then at least one step removed from
Quibbling? Maybe. After all we got the songs and got them in style. But complete satisfaction remained elusive.