IT'S been more than four decades since the Who last embarked on a full-scale tour of Australia. The group made a pit stop in 2004, but this time has returned to play the capital cities.
The Who now comprises original members guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey. Its fine support cast includes long-time keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, bassist Pino Palladino, the brilliant Zak Starkey on drums and Townshend's brother Simon on guitar.
With Keith Moon and John Entwistle among the departed, Townshend has admitted that the touring outfit is more like a tribute to the Who rather than the original band. But when it's in full flight, there are no quibbles about the band's authenticity.
Townshend's songs remain a call to arms. And at its best, the present outfit is a celebration of the music Townshend has written and the camaraderie the band enjoys with its fans.
Five mod symbols lit up the back screen as Townshend ripped into the opening chords of I Can't Explain. Then as the screens gave way to a range of images -- from swinging London to flower power -- the band went into The Seeker.
By Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere nostalgia was in the air, before Townshend took the opportunity to spruik the band's most recent studio album, 2006's Endless Wire.
Daltrey's vocals improved as the set went on. While the band found its mark, portions of the first hour were lumbering, compared with the magic induced at will in 2004.
Townshend's anecdotes were witty, especially the one that featured the Electric Light Orchestra, a spaceship and punk's prophesised death of disco. The tune Sister Disco barely lived up to the preceding story. Eminence Front was a flat spot, but the band rallied with a fine clutch of songs from Quadrophenia.
Daltrey somehow tapped the zeitgeist, and his vocal on Love, Reign O'er Me was stunning. It doesn't pay to write champions off, and the band proved that with the second half of the show.
It tore into You Better You Bet with a bravado that suggested the tune was written last week. My Generation, which segued into Cry If You Want, was electric.
The crowning moment was Won't Get Fooled Again. Throughout the night Townshend impressed with his guitar work, capped off with his trademark windmills. Starkey -- the son of ex-Beatle Ringo Starr -- was a powerhouse and Daltrey delivered that magnificent scream in a manner that's simply primeval.
The show was a mixed bag, running from the tempered to the sublime. Thankfully, there was more of the latter and less of the former. Welcome back.