It wasn't a triumphant reassertion of their place in the rock pantheon, but it also wasn't an unnecessary nostalgia trip when British rock legends the Who returned to the Valley for the first time in over 10 years on Wednesday.
The band has staged several reunion tours since its 1982 "breakup" almost to the point of parody. Perhaps that's why US Airways Center was only half full.
The circumstances were quite different this time, however. Founding members singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend looked re-energized, even though they were touring without bassist John Entwistle, who died in 2002. And for the first time in over 20 years the band had new material to showcase, from its 2006 CD Endless Wire.
Usually classic rock bands will only play a song or two from the new album, which almost invariably sparks a Pavlovian exodus to the bathrooms. But the Who played almost half of Endless Wire.
And surprisingly, the crowd ate up the new material, which included a mini rock-opera entitled Wire and Glass, and two gorgeous acoustic numbers, Man in a Purple Dress and Tea and Theatre, performed by Daltrey and Townshend alone.
But the biggest response was reserved for the hits, especially Baba O'Riley.
"That song is popular in Italy as well," quipped Townshend after playing Baba O'Riley. "They've got a lot of fields filled with teens, who are all wasted."
Won't Get Fooled Again also drew a huge response. The song gained new poignancy after 9/11, which was reflected in the military images on the giant video screens behind the stage. And when Daltrey hit the scream at the end of the song, crowd erupted.
The show kicked off with a trio of early classics, I Can't Explain, The Seeker and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, accompanied by videos of the young Who interspersed with images from the swingin' '60s.
And the band threw plenty of more obscure tunes into the mix for the hardcore fans. Eminence Front, from the group's last studio album, 1982's It's Hard, had fans dancing in the aisles and was one of the highlights. The song featured a rare vocal turn from Townshend, as well as Daltrey strumming on an electric guitar and trying to look necessary onstage.
An extended version of My Generation that morphed into Cry If You Want, also from It's Hard followed by Won't Get Fooled Again closed the main set with a bang.
But the real treats were reserved for the encore, when the band delivered a 15-minute medley from the classic rock opera Tommy. After a stunning version of Naked Eye, an outtake from the early '70s, the band launched into Pinball Wizard, which led into the more obscure Amazing Journey. The instrumental Sparks followed, with some hot soloing from Townshend, proving that just because he's known as a rhythm guitarist doesn't mean he doesn't know how to play a killer lead. It also featured Daltrey furiously playing tambourine - so furiously that he shattered one of them, appearing to cut his hand in the process. The Tommy medley wrapped up with Daltrey leading the audience in See Me Feel Me.
The pair's backup band, which included bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Zak Starkey, were technically capable substitutes for the late Entwistle and Keith Moon, especially Starkey. Unfortunately age is starting to wear on Daltrey's voice. Several numbers were pitched down, and he still sounded rough at many points throughout the evening.
But the crowd was forgiving, singing and dancing with their old faves and soaking up that this might be the last time they see these British rock titans. We'll hope that they either return to the studio for more new material or pack it in. The Who are no longer a classic rock punchline, and it would be a shame for them to go back to being the butt of reunion tour jokes.