Even Junior's First Punk Primer spells out that in 1976, bands such as the Clash existed to nuke old grizzlers such as the Who. Suggesting that, a quarter century later, the leader of the former might support the remains of the latter, in a series of soulless arena settings, would have been like nominating the Pistols to open for Zeppelin.
In the intervening lifetime, the two extremes of Seventies rock have met in a middle ground of survivors whose initial spark remains connected to the mains. So no one batted an eye to see Joe Strummer guesting on the 'Oo's latest reunion tour, and those who arrived on time at London Arena on Monday witnessed one of the most storming warm-ups of the year.
Spurred on by his youthful band the Mescaleros, Strummer was an imposing example of how a new wave figurehead need not become a chat-show cartoon, excelling both on contemporary material such as Gamma Ray and Bindi Bhajee and decorated warhorses like Rock the Casbah and I Fought the Law.
Could the body of the Who be hotwired yet again with anything like such dignity? They have spent almost 20 years in a cryogenic state awaiting the pleasure of the curmudgeonly Pete Townshend, but previous reformations including the twenty-fifth anniversary tour of 1989 and the Quadrophenia pageant of 1996 revealed a remarkably healthy patient. For all the tediously unimaginative media derision, they didn't die before they got old - so get over it.
The musicians arrived back in the old country after a successful American tour, apparently so well reconciled that even a new Who album is not out of the question. Their early form here suggested that, much as the Rolling Stones have done lately, the Who have checked their emotional baggage and remembered the early pleasures of maximum R&B. Thus they began with a convincingly brisk and unadorned re-creation of the early days with I Can't Explain, Substitute and Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. Townshend welcomed us to the "bumhole of London" and told us to f off - the sort of abuse that was strangely reassuring.
What unfolded thereafter was quite unmissable but also troublingly uneven. There were treats, such as Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes and a genuinely jaw-dropping bass solo by John Entwistle during 5.15, and in the wake of Townshend's recent revival of the Lifehouse project came welcome reassessments of outtakes from its original sessions, Relay and Don't Even Know Myself.
But Roger Daltrey has remained a magnificently lusty frontman for so long, it was hard to face that he was now falling at some vocal hurdles, the strain sometimes showing in his expression, while Townshend seemed bent on distorting some of his undying classics into long and unnecessary jams like some dust-covered FM radio axeman.
During the encore, Daltrey strapped on an acoustic guitar and was considerably more at ease, even mastering a falsetto detail at the end of a winning The Kids Are Alright. However, the elongation effect was especially upsetting on the closing My Generation, which started out with fuel injection in the outside lane but ended up puttering along lamely on the hard shoulder. The Who had arrived in an MG, but left in a bubble car.