Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY
NEW YORK - It's not easy for a rock star to have a proper midlife crisis.
When you've spent most of your young adulthood wearing flashy clothes, ogling nubile babes and generally living in the fast lane, how do you convincingly revert to adolescent behavior?
That has been the challenge faced by the surviving original members of The Who, who reunited last year - again - for a two-legged tour that wraps up this week with four performances at Madison Square Garden.
At the first of these gigs on Tuesday, singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend and bassist John Entwistle - joined by the relatively youthful drummer Zac Starkey and keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick - seemed determined to relive their glory days without embarrassing themselves. The set's first hour was a virtual homage to the band's 1971 classic-rock opus Who's Next; other hits from the '60s and '70s were rendered rigorously and with unabashed reverence.
Surprisingly, Townshend, not Daltrey, gave the most flamboyant performance. The Who's songwriter and driving creative force consistently upstaged its lead singer, delivering searing electric solos and serving up his trademark windmill arm motions with a level of sustained physical intensity that suggested he had just swallowed some new form of Viagra designed especially for lead guitarists.
Daltrey, though in good voice, seemed almost staid by comparison. Dressed conservatively in a fitted beige sweater and pants, the singer offered little of his celebrated alpha-male bombast. He hasn't aged as gracefully or forcefully as, say, Bruce Springsteen, but neither has Daltrey maintained the shameless bravado that makes frontmen such as Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler entertaining even when bordering on self-parody. Instead, the man who sang "Hope I die before I get old" seems to have settled comfortably into the autumn of his life - a good thing for his significant others, perhaps, but not necessarily for his fans.
In The Wallflowers' opening set, second-generation rock star Jakob Dylan projected an endearing mix of warmth and understated cool. The singer/songwriter and his bandmates veered from muscular versions of previous hits to material from their excellent third album, Breach, which arrives in stores Oct. 10. With new songs such as Letters From the Wasteland and Sleepwalker, Dylan spoke eloquently for h-h-his generation of artists.