Chuck Darrow, Courier-Post Staff
CAMDEN - The kids, as Pete Townshend once wrote, may be alright, but the old guys weren't too shabby either Friday night as Townshend and The Who played the E-Centre.
Rather than concentrate on the 1973 rock opera, Quadrophrenia, as it did on its most recent two tours, the 37-year-old group promised a "greatest hits" program this time out. And that's exactly what the Baby Boomer-filled crowd at the all but sold-out E-Centre received, much to its head-bopping, air-guitar-playing delight.
The group - which also features charter members Roger Daltrey (lead vocals) and John Entwhistle (bass), along with longtime side man John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards and Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son) on drums - surveyed with authority the unit's vast canon of signature songs.
Opening, as they have for decades, with "I Can't Explain," the band offered renditions of many of their best-loved numbers, with but a few rarities thrown in for seasoning (including the Internet-anticipating "Relay," from the unreleased 1971 rock opera, Lifehouse).
Some, such as "Baba O'Reilly" (a.k.a. "Teen-aged Wasteland"), "Bargain" and "Pinball Wizard" were pretty much note-for-note reconstructions of the recorded versions. However, far more interesting were the sequences during which the Who stretched their songs' boundaries.
For instance, a reworked "Magic Bus" (absent its "Bo Diddley"-style rhythm), slid into a straight-outta-Memphis blues exercise sparked by Bundrick's icy Hammond B-3 organ work.
And a loose, unfocused "5:15" (which sorely missed the punctuation supplied by the horns on the Quadrophrenia version), was redeemed by Entwhistle's acrobatic, string-plucking solo.
Throughout it all, the individual performances of the five players sparkled.
The super-buff Daltrey's voice has lost little of the power and drama it had during the band's 1960s and '70s heyday; his scream that brought the set-closing "Won't Get Fooled Again" hurtling toward its still-spine-tingling conclusion was in itself a reason to have attended Friday's performance.
Townshend, whose trademark windmill-style of guitar playing remains one of rock's template moves, played a lot more lead than on many past tours. What he lacked in finesse and technical virtuosity, he more than made up for with his fiery, emotional solos and frenetic strumming.
Entwhistle's rumbling, animated basslines were as dependable as ever, and Bundrick filled in all of the crucial keyboard parts with effortless efficiency.
But it was Starkey - who didn't so much duplicate the late Keith Moon's playing as seemingly channel it - who was the evening's revelation. His recreations of Moon's roiling, bashing parts guaranteed The Who would deliver exactly what the faithful expected.