Five things we learned from the Who Hits 50! tour in Anaheim

Lead singer Roger Daltrey, left, and lead guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who perform at the Honda Center in Anaheim on the group's 50th anniversary tour.

Lead singer Roger Daltrey, left, and lead guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who perform at the Honda Center in Anaheim on the group’s 50th anniversary tour.

(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The Who Hits 50! tour belatedly hit the Southland on Sunday night with the group’s stop in Anaheim, en route to Wednesday night’s date at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here are five things we discovered at the 22-song performance at the Honda Center.

1. Healthy again. Lead singer Roger Daltrey has returned in fine form from last year’s bout with viral meningitis that prompted the postponement of the North American leg of the group’s 50th anniversary tour. Now those shows are rolling out in what actually is the 51st anniversary of the band’s first hit, “I Can’t Explain,” in 1965.

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2. Oldchella? If anyone thinks proto-punk rocker Pete Townshend, who famously wrote “I hope I die before I get old,” is thin-skinned about touring at 71, think again. “If any of you listen to these songs and don’t know why you know them,” Townshend told the near-capacity crowd at one point, “it’s because your great-grandparents listened to them.” And yes, Townshend still does the windmill stroke with his electric guitar.


3. Favorites. Midway through the two-hour set, Daltrey introduced one song off the Who’s 1973 concept album “Quadrophenia” as one his his favorites. Surprisingly, it wasn’t “The Real Me,” “Love, Reign O’er Me” or “5:15” featuring one of his signature vocals, but “The Rock,” the extended instrumental that is the album’s penultimate track. Maybe he likes it so much because it gives him seven or eight minutes of vocal rest.

4. Another 50th. Zak Starkey took over the drum seat in the Who in 1994, 16 years after the death in 1978 of founding member Keith Moon, who was close friends with Starkey’s father, Ringo Starr, and who gave young Zak his first drum kit at age 8. He’s now been playing drums with the group longer than Moon did. And like the Who, he was born in 1965 and is marking his 50th birthday touring once again with the group.

5. The money note. Yes, Daltrey can still hit the “Yeah!” at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that is one of the greatest expressions of liberation in all of rock. And we’re not giving anything away to those with tickets to Wednesday’s show at Staples: Even knowing it’s coming doesn’t mute the visceral impact of that moment.

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