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The Who rock Nassau Coliseum

Pete Townshend of The Who

Pete Townshend of The Who (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

The legacies of the top British Invasion bands have solidified into their current state — the Beatles were the clever populists, Rolling Stones are bluesier and, um, more lascivious, and The Who are the belligerent rebels.

But it wasn't always this way and last night at Nassau Coliseum, The Who showed why.
In playing their rock opera “Quadrophenia” in its entirety, the band offered a reminder of how ambitious and thoughtful they can be, while still utilizing Pete Townshend's windmilling guitar playing and Roger Daltrey's aggressively stylish microphone swinging.

There was musically so much to love during “Quadrophenia,” from the stunning three-part harmonies in “Is It in My Head?” to the gospel rave-up that “Drowned” became. There were nods to the late John Entwistle, whose video virtuoso bass solo in “5:15” became the foundation of the live performance, and the late drummer Keith Moon, whose distinctive vocals on “Bell Boy” inspired the Britpop of the '90s. And both Daltrey and Townshend were on point during the challenging “Love, Reign O'er Me.”

However, the long-form tale of “Quadrophenia,” which chronicles the rebellion of the British Mods of the '60s against more conventional society, really was told by The Who more succinctly and impressively in other classics.

“Baba O'Riley” was like a punch in the gut, following “Quadrophenia.” The fiery rebellion came from every direction, as Townshend's arms whirled and mic-swinging Daltrey commanded the stage in a way few rock frontmen can match.

It's nice to watch The Who still challenge themselves and stretch the boundaries of what is expected of them. It's thrilling, though, to see them do what they do best — fuel their rock with the swagger of “Who Are You.”

SETLIST: I Am the Sea / The Real Me / Quadrophenia / Cut My Hair / The Punk and the Godfather / I'm One / The Dirty Jobs / Helpless Dancer / Is It in My Head? / I've Had Enough / 5:15 / Sea and Sand / Drowned / Bell Boy / Doctor Jimmy / The Rock / Love, Reign O'er Me // Who Are You / Behind Blue Eyes / Pinball Wizard / Baba O'Riley / Won't Get Fooled Again / Tea and Theatre

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