It's the Who rock opera based on the larger-than-life personalities of the band's original four members. Too bad only two of them are still around to relive it.
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey -- who have passed themselves off as the Who since the 2002 death of bassist John Entwistle -- returned to Target Center on Tuesday to perform 1973's "Quadrophenia" from start ("The Real Me") to finish ("Love, Reign O'er Me"), followed by a mini-set of other classics. It was their third local show in a decade. Between that and the fact that they were playing their lesser-known of two operas, fan reaction seemed relatively ho-hum (or Who-hum?).
Only 7,000 fans turned out, 5,000 less than for their show at the Xcel Energy Center in 2006, when Daltrey's voice was notoriously reduced to a rasp and the new album, "Endless Wire," was also infamously weak. The 68-year-old singer -- one of rock's greatest howlers for decades -- returned stronger but without Townshend last year on a solo tour featuring their 1969 rock opera "Tommy."
This time, the Who's remaining two brought eight other musicians with them to fill in for Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978. Heck, they even brought Entwistle and Moon with them, too. Each of the late rockers appeared via video in key parts to round out the "Quad." The bassist was represented by an ox-meaty bass solo during the album's most thrilling rocker, "5:15," while footage of the drummer singing wily in "Bell Boy" was also shown.
Those there-in-spirit montages worked surprisingly well, as did a lot of other challenging parts of Tuesday's 2¼-hour performance. First and foremost, Daltrey's voice was relatively up to par again. He sounded groggy in early numbers such as "The Real Me." By "The Punk & the Godfather" and "Is It in My Head?" mid-opera, though, he was hitting as hard as the rock opera's punchy antagonist, Jimmy.
Even if he was singing like a wounded basset hound, Daltrey deserved props for still looking like a fox -- a quality he emphasized by gradually unbuttoning his shirt as the night wore on. His buff chest was protruding along with his neck veins by the time he got to "Reign O'er Me."
"Quadrophenia," not nearly as well-known as "Tommy" -- the crowd mostly sat through the duration of it -- did prove to be a smart option this go-around for the remade Who. For starters, Townshend also had many turns at the microphone, per the album, including an especially spirited "I'm One." There were plenty of chances for his guitar prowess to shine, too, especially in "5:15" and "Sea and the Sand."
Also, the themes of "Quadrophenia" are more timeless and less hippie-dippy than "Tommy," including teen angst, social anxiety and the ever-popular topic of girls ripping boys' hearts out. It's opera partly about rock's dually destructive and redemptive powers. It thus carried a different kind of power delivered by a couple guys much older than the age Townshend famously hoped to die before (with assists from his bandmates who actually are deceased).
As "Who Are You" kicked off the post-"Quadrophenia" part of the show, the crowd finally got to its feet and stayed through "Pinball Wizard," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Baba O'Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." The latter three songs served as a reminder that if Townshend and Daltrey really wanted to pack 'em in again on a future tour, they could probably just play the non-operatic "Who's Next" album. Tuesday's show was certainly solid enough to hope there is a next Who tour.
See more photos from the show at startribune.com/music Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib