It was hardly the grandest, most spectacular or populist entrance Newcastle Arena’s ever witnesed.
“Good evening, Sunderland,” said Roger Daltrey cheekily as The Who frontman, Pete Townsend and their band shuffled on stage without pomp or ceremony.
Five songs in and it was Townsend’s turn to have a joke at the crowd’s expense.
Plagued by one or two early technical problems, the guitarist explained: “It was alright during the sound check, it’s just all these flabby bodies in front of me that’s messing things up.”
Of course the audience lapped up the banter because one of the enduring appeals of a gig by The Who is the spontaneity, the lack of choreography. Daltrey’s “Jack The Lad” wit and Townsend’s cutting edge humour.
And then of course, there’s the music and this was a Whofest in the truest sense of the word.
It’s only 18 months since The Who were last in Newcastle to perform Quadrophenia, which probably explains the empty seats at the back of the arena, which Townsend pointedly referred to halfway through the band’s two hours and 20 minutes set.
If their June 2013 tour was for the purist, this was a carnival of greatest hits to celebrate their 50th anniversary, launched by I Can’t Explain and finished with Magic Bus, which, Daltrey pointed out was not an encore.
“What’s the point of encores?” he asked, aware that the concert had already overrun its 11pm curfew. “It’s just keeps you all waiting.”
Sandwiched in between, everyone had their own personal highlights from a mesmerising Behind Blue Eyes through the mod rocker the Kids Are Alright and the anthemic See Me, Feel Me to the irresistible Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again – and yes, that Daltrey scream is as electrifying as it was four decades ago.
And the 70-year-old (70!!) can rarely have sang Love Reign O’er Me any better on a night when Daltrey and Townsend paid tribute to departed band-mates Keith Moon and John Entwhistle with flilmed solo spots by the pair on Bell Boy and 5.15 respectively.
Yet for Townsend and his fellow musicians who included brother Simon on guitar and Zak Starkey on drums, it was some of their less well known songs which seemed to give them the most pleasure.
Amazing Journey segueing into Sparks showcased his extraordinary talent and the technical excellence of all the musicians in blistering style while the ten minute mini-opera A Quick One (While He’s Away) may have presented an opportunity for some to relieve themselves or sit down a few minutes but on stage, it seemed to re-energise the performers.
No My Generation but it didn’t really matter because we knew that already. On the way home, we could think of only two other songs we’d have liked to have heard live for probably the last time – Squeeze Box and Slip Kid.
Considering The Who’s back catalogue, that in itself is testimony to their greatness and longevity.