Geoff Gehman Of The Morning Call
8:33 p.m. Tuesday, Wachovia Center, Philadelphia: The Who open their North American tour -- the first in four years and the first complete one led by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend -- with a meaty, beaty and bouncy version of "Can't Explain," under a video of their 1960s and '70s hijinks as a quartet. The Mod anthem of defiant confusion launches a two-hour show that's glorious, dubious and curious, with all the highs and lows of rock opera.
8:44: "Baba O'Riley" crests on Townshend's knifing, pummeling power chords and Daltrey's funneled, foaming, furious vocals. At 62 he can still smash and cut glass with a scream.
8:55: Daltrey shows his raw, touchingly vulnerable side on "Real Good Looking Boy," Townshend's ruminative ode to Elvis Presley, one of his and Daltrey's heroes.
9:00: Townshend explains that he wrote "Real Good Looking Boy" years ago to jump-start a Who reunion with Daltrey and John Entwistle, the band's bassist who died in 2002. Ultimately, though, the project, which Tuesday night included a Townshend elegy to Entwistle, "ran out of steam."
9:03: "Wire & Glass," the mini-rock opera that convinced the frequently bickering Townshend and Daltrey to tour again, is a 15-minute spin through Townshend's typical obsessions: the heaven and hell of fame, the saving grace of music, the circuitous search for meaning. The centerpiece of The Who's new CD "Endless Wire," due in stores next month, it's a cracked mosaic of fragmented riffs and lyrical trifles. By comparison, "A Quick One While He's Away," the Who's nine-minute, witty, wacky medley from 1966, is downright unified.
9:20: "Relay," from Townshend's aborted "Lifehouse" project, features cutting, thrashing drumming from Zak Starkey, who was tutored by none other than Keith Moon, the Who's late, lamented maniacal genius. Steadier than Moon and flashier than Kenny Jones, The Who's second drummer, Ringo Starr's son plays detonating, levitating fills on everything from "Who Are You" to "Substitute."
9:40: Daltrey and Townshend duet on another track from "Endless Wire," "Man in a Purple Dress," a savage attack on hypocritical priests ("You're invisible to me/Like vapor on the sea"). Daltrey's rugged righteous wrath proves once again why he's Townshend's best interpreter.
10:01: "Won't Get Fooled Again," The Who's most operatic, foolproof tune, is a massive dose of ecstasy, a tribal orgy. It's thrilling to watch thousands of listeners swing their arms in tandem with Townshend as they become air-guitar gods.
10:19: A "Tommy" suite is stretched into an inter-galactic epic, propelled by Townshend's hammering, wailing, sky-biting "Purple Haze" solo on "Underture." Nevertheless, it sounds anticlimactic after "Won't Get Fooled Again." Even better would have been "Love Reign O'er Me"; sadly, strangely, there were no numbers from "Quadrophenia."
10:38: The concert ends with Daltrey and Townshend performing "Tea and Theatre," a sad, tender reunion of mad creators from Townshend's blog novella "The Boy Who Heard Music." Spectators toast the grizzled, gracious comrades with a thunderous "WHO!!!," a thank-you for 33 years of maximum R&B.
7:32: Peeping Tom starts the evening with a bizarrely engaging, somewhat endearing blend of hip-hop and death metal. The eight musicians mix turntable scratching and Arabic/outer-space fiddle, a bashing wall of rhythm and catchy rapping ("You don't like anchovies/You actin' salty)." Dressed all in white, lead singer Mike Patton whips his body and voice like David Bowie imitating Sly Stone, or Rob Zombie channeling Cole Porter. Despite their impressive chops, they're a poor opening act; the only one thing they share with The Who is a middle-finger attitude.