GREENVILLE—Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend might be a couple of senior citizens fronting a band they co-founded nearly a half-century ago, but they clearly aren't ready for the nostalgia circuit.
The fact that – for The Who's first North American tour in four years – they had the audacity to trot out a nearly 40-year-old concept album containing only a few songs instantly familiar to the masses is proof of that.
The Who performed its landmark 1973 double LP, “Quadrophenia,” in its entirety on Thursday at the Bi-Lo Center, offering a hi-octane show that seemed as artistically relevant as it did purely entertaining.
Daltrey marched about the stage with vigor, energetically swinging his microphone wire in a lasso-like manner and eventually unbuttoning his shirt and baring his chest. His still powerful voice particularly soared on the album's finale, “Love, Reign O'er Me.”
Townshend, meanwhile, thrilled the audience by repeatedly flailing his right arm in his patented windmill motion as he attacked the strings of his guitar. Along with some bombastic instrumental solos, he also gave beautifully understated vocal performances on such pensive songs as “Cut My Hair” and “I'm One.”
As the 10-piece touring band – which included bassist Pino Palladino, guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) and drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son), among others – ripped through the musical selections, multiple video screens constantly flashed an array of images that conveyed the themes of disillusionment, teen angst and rebellion that play such a key role in “Quadrophenia.”
It was especially neat to see classic video footage of The Who from its younger days in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Of course, none of the visuals were as powerful as those of deceased original band members John Entwistle and Keith Moon.
During an electrifying rendition of “5:15,” Entwistle was shown on a video projection, performing a mind-boggling bass solo. Although Entwistle died in 2002, it felt, for that moment, almost as if he were actually there.
The same concept was later used to highlight Moon, who died in 1978.
Just as it did when Entwistle appeared on screen, the crowd responded with thunderous applause as Moon was shown pounding the drums and screaming vocals in his inimitable, comic manner during “Bell Boy.”
At the conclusion of the “Quadrophenia” portion of the concert, Pete Townshend alluded to the video appearances of The Who's dearly departed by joking, “We're grave robbers. We're vampires.”
After finishing “Quadrophenia,” The Who then cranked out a handful of its biggest hits to the delight of the audience, which was suddenly transformed from attentive to celebratory.
Many in the crowd blissfully sang along as The Who delivered such classics as “Baba O'Riley,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Beyond Blue Eyes,” “Who Are You” and “Won't Get Fooled Again.”
The show ended on a low-key note with Daltrey and Pete Townshend alone on stage for “Tea & Theatre” from The Who's 2006 album, “Endless Wire.”
Opening act Vintage Trouble warmed up the crowd with an electrifying half-hour set that seemed perfectly suited to the occasion. Its turbo-charged mix of retro-flavored rock and soul often came across as the sort of music that the mods in “Quadrophenia” would have dug.
Lead singer Ty Taylor had an especially engaging stage presence, his vocal style and swagger sometimes channeling such R&B legends as James Brown and Otis Redding.