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The Who’s belated birthday show at the Sprint Center was worth the wait

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend performed Friday night at the Sprint Center.
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend performed Friday night at the Sprint Center. deulitt@kcstar.com

After postponements that lasted nearly a year, The Who performed at the Sprint Center on Friday night, and the results were worth the frustrations and the wait.

For more than two hours, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and their six-piece band took a rowdy crowd on a joyous tour of the band’s classic catalog, which goes back more than a half century.

Daltrey apologized for the delays — two shows scheduled for 2015 were postponed because of his illnesses — but none was necessary.

Whatever was ailing him was not even slightly evident Friday night during a show in which he and Townshend proved why they are hall of fame rock stars of the highest order.

The set list was about as perfect as it could be. They opened with “I Can’t Explain,” the first Who single, which sounds as urgent and fresh as it did when it was released more than 50 years ago. From there, they bounced seamlessly from one era to the next, showcasing Townshend’s masterful songwriting and guitar play and Daltrey’s gilded voice, which, when he’s on, is as good as it gets.

The show felt like one long encore, a blitzkrieg of favorites and hits. There were singalongs galore among a crowd of more than 14,000 during classics such as “The Kids Are Alright,” “My Generation,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Join Together” and “Love, Reign O’er Me,” which Daltrey delivered with an evangelical fervor.

Other highlights: the instrumental “The Rock,” and the two closers, “Baba O’Riley,” which featured a furious blues harp solo from Daltrey, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

The band was stocked with ringers, including Simon Townshend, Pete’s brother, on guitar; Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s son, on drums; and ace bassist Pino Palladino.

The Who is a quartet missing its original rhythm section — drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle — but that doesn’t make them half the band they used to be. They have assembled a stout ensemble that does justice to some of the best rock songs ever written.

The stage was set with an enormous video screen that broadcast an array of images, much of it footage of the band in its heyday.

A few times it became a distraction from what was happening on stage, but for the most part it added more sentimental weight to a show that ultimately glorified the history of one of the greatest rock bands ever.

The mood got a bit sociopolitical a couple of times when Townshend took jabs at the transgender bathroom issue now prevalent in the U.S.

It got humble and a bit serious, too, when Daltrey expressed gratitude for the crowd’s patience and for still being earthbound after surviving last year’s bout of viral meningitis, which landed him in the hospital for three weeks.

But he showed no consequences of that, and neither he nor Townshend acted much like guys in their 70s.

Daltrey can still muster a bellow that fills an arena, and Townshend can still issue some jaw-dropping guitar licks and riffs, high-speed windmills and all.

After saying he was happy to be in Kansas City, Townshend joked he was “glad to be anywhere.” But as they enter their sixth decade of rock stardom, the two surviving founding members of The Who are proving that the old guys are all right, too, and they are in no mood to fade away.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Set list

I Can’t Explain; Who Are You; The Seeker; The Kids Are Alright; I Can See for Miles; My Generation; 5:15; Pictures of Lily; Behind Blue Eyes; Bargain; Join Together; You Better You Bet; I’m One; The Rock; Love, Reign O’er Me; Eminence Front; Amazing Journey; Sparks; Pinball Wizard; See Me, Feel Me; Baba O’Riley; Won’t Get Fooled Again

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