Rock's eminence grise Pete Townshend and all-round good guy Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of the original line-up of The Who, headlined the Roundhouse for the last time in 1970. Now, 36 years later, the BBC Electric Proms has brought them back to this illustrious venue, and they have brought with them music from The Who's first studio album for 24 years, Endless Wire, including the mini-operaWire & Glass.
They open, however, with songs the Roundhouse might remember: "I Can't Explain", their first hit as wannabe mods in 1965, and "The Seeker", a 1970 single that has become a firm favourite since they began reviving it. Daltrey and Townshend continue with "Who Are You", the title track of their 1978 album, released just before the death of original drummer Keith Moon. Zak Starkey, once mentored by Moon though he is the son of Beatle Ringo Starr, attacks his kit with customary energy, and Townshend switches effortlessly between trademark windmills and shrill sonics.
Daltrey remains the supreme interpreter of his sparring partner's vision and even makes sense of the Wire & Glass mini-opera, performed in an abridged six-song version. The new material returns Towns-hend to familiar themes as well as telling The Who's own story through the fantasy band The Glass Household. "Music makes me, makes me strong," sings Daltrey, concentration intense on his face. The magic of The Who has often come from the way the vocalist interprets Townshend's concepts for the common man and fan. He is majestic and makes the most of juicy lines like "golden stairway to a Zeppelin heaven".
"Baba O'Riley" follows and would be The Who's defining song if it weren't for the anthemic "My Generation". Forty years ago, the BBC was concerned not to offend listeners with the stuttering and now Daltrey and Townshend are performing "My Generation" - with a stunning new extended middle section - at the Electric Proms.
To prove they could always do light and shade, The Who two play the acoustic "A Man In A Purple Dress" and then, with band, a full-blown "Mike Post Theme", before a climactic medley of the rock opera Tommy's best moments. A downbeat "Tea & Theatre", with just the two principals, is a fitting end, though the audience can't believe there is no encore. The Who have given us so much over 40 years that it doesn't matter.
The Who - BBC Electric Proms is on Radio 2 this Saturday at 9pmReuse content