There were tense moments at Nassau Coliseum Wednesday night, as The Who's singer Roger Daltrey threatened to walk off the stage if someone smoking marijuana near the stage didn't stop.
Daltrey has a well-known allergy to marijuana smoke that affects his throat and singing voice, a condition the band even emphasized during the informational slides it projected before its set.
The smoke's impact was almost immediate on his voice, which went from crystal clear and potent for the opening "I Can't Explain" to something rougher and more limited during "I Can See for Miles." "My voice is shutting down," he said, apologizing.
A few songs later, though, Daltrey had seemingly recovered. He hit the towering notes of "Love Reign O'er Me" with no problem and his voice got stronger from there, matching Pete Townshend's inventive, ferocious guitar playing.
If "The Who Hits 50!" really is The Who's farewell tour, Daltrey and Townshend are certainly going out rocking, with a two-hour set that traces their journey from jangly mod-influenced pop to ambitious artists crafting detailed rock operas to rock standard-bearers. Each had his moments to excel. Daltrey powered his way through the selections from "Tommy." Townshend crafted new approaches to "Eminence Front," which picked up a jazzier vibe, and "Squeeze Box" (now with more banjo).
But the biggest moments came when they were both pushing hardest -- the powerful one-two punch of "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," with Townshend in all his windmilling glory, and Daltrey playing every bit of the mic-twirling frontman.
They seemingly have more backup than ever, with help from guitarist Simon Townshend, bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Zak Starkey, keyboardists John Corey and Loren Gold and musical director Frank Simes. All that musical firepower made "A Quick One, While He's Away," which Townshend described as their first rock opera, an unexpected treat, starting with the four-part harmonies and winding through a dizzying range of rock styles.
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Townshend's stage banter was also in rare form, noting that he had made some decisions since turning 70 on Tuesday. "From now on I will only tell the truth," he said, adding that he had a very English sense of humor. "How do I feel about you? I'd better not say."
The performance kicked off a run of shows in the area, including stops at Barclays Center and Forest Hills Stadium next week.
Long Beach's Joan Jett & The Blackhearts opened the night with a hard-hitting 45-minute set that showed why they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, especially on the roaring closer "I Hate Myself for Loving You."
SETLIST: I Can't Explain / The Seeker / Who Are You / The Kids Are Alright / Squeeze Box / I Can See for Miles / My Generation / Behind Blue Eyes / Bargain / Join Together / You Better, You Bet / I'm One / Love Reign O'er Me / Eminence Front / A Quick One, While He's Away / Amazing Journey / Sparks / Pinball Wizard / See Me, Feel Me / Baba O'Riley / Won't Get Fooled Again