The Who’s Sunday night gig at the 02 starts not so much with a big bang but something closer to a late-Christmas cracker popping. This is the first of two shows postponed after Roger Daltrey fell ill back in December.
As hi-tech screen graphics explode into life, Daltrey, Pete Townshend and their extended backing band amble on stage looking like they’d rather be at home watching Mr Selfridge.
But after a rusty I Can’t Explain and some bus stop pensioner-style bickering (Daltrey: “You alright, Pete?” Townshend: “’Oo gives a fuck?”) the Statler and Waldorf of 70s rock find their spark. Sort of. Substitute and The Kids Are Alright thrum with nervous energy.
But this is the first night of a big world tour (including a Hyde Park show this June) that may or may not be The Who’s last. Daltrey is saving his voice, and his new default setting, a bluesy, guttural growl, sounds misplaced on an otherwise sublime I Can See For Miles.
After a rotten run through Love Reign O’er Me they find themselves again, bizarrely, on 1966’s mini-rock opera/period piece A Quick One While He’s Away. From here it’s a predictable run through the CSI-endorsed hits, and the undignified spectacle of Daltrey trying to exit from the wrong side of the stage. An almost good night, then. But not great.