A grateful Who made its delayed return to North America on Saturday (Feb. 27) in Detroit, opening the rescheduled fall leg of its The Who Hits 50! tour at the city’s Joe Louis Arena.
At the end of the nearly two-hour show, frontman Roger Daltrey — whose bout with viral meningitis caused some 2015 shows to be postponed and pushed the entire second North American leg of the tour off for almost six months — offered thanks to “you nice people who supported me last year… We never gave up.” Though he sounded strained in certain points of the 20-song set, Daltrey performed with robust confidence, right up to the lung-busting scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Guitarist Pete Townshend declared, “Roger, you sang f—ing great!” The show was shortened and tweaked a bit from the 2015 edition, dropping staples such as “I Can’t Explain” and the mini-opera “A Quick One (While He’s Away),” and pacing the set with instrumental breaks. For instance, the Quadrophenia instrumental “The Rock” was inserted before the vocally demanding “Love Reign O’er Me.”
“We are not just senior citizens,” Townshend cracked during the show. “We are wise, wonderful, worthy wankers!”
Daltrey also had plenty of support from the ensemble’s backing vocalists, which Townshend acknowledged during the band introductions. “If you listen to our stuff you know we do a lot with backing vocals,” Townshend told the Detroit crowd, before cracking, “We pretended to be The Beach Boys — only better.” But seriously, folks… “I could never have written ‘God Only Knows.’ That’s one of the best songs ever,” Townshend quickly added.
The guitarist also took a good-natured jab at U2, remarking that they would have Daltrey hauled to the rear of the arena on a crane “if we could afford it. We leave that to Bono, bless him. The Irish don’t pay tax! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen U2; they were great when they were young.” Daltrey added that The Who “had all the good ideas first” when it came to staging.
On a more reverent note, The Who preceded Saturday’s show with a video scroll paying tribute to its long history with Detroit, whose radio stations gave the band its first major U.S. airplay (for “Happy Jack”). The group also posted an RIP photo for the late Eagles member Glenn Frey on the video screens, declaring him a “Son of Detroit.”
Here’s the set list:
“Who Are You”
“The Kids Are Alright”
“I Can See For Miles”
“The Real Me”
“Behind Blue Eyes”
“You Better You Bet”
“Love Reign O’er Me”
“See Me, Feel Me”
“Baba O’ Riley”
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”