Is any other rock guitarist as exciting to watch as Pete Townshend?

There is something about the way he windmills his right arm, playing rhythm and lead at the same time, that’s so compelling you can’t take your eyes off him.

His movements are both balletic and aggressive and even if doesn’t do that jumping scissor kick any more, you feel he could if he tried.

Pete Townshend is 78 by the way.

People talk about Mick Jagger’s astonishing stage energy but Townshend is up there with him. And, interestingly, the fingers of his only real guitar rival, Rolling Stone Keith Richards, long ago surrendered to age.

Yet Townshend is very self-deprecatory about his legendary band. He tried to manage expectations at the start of this two-hour show at Hove Cricket Ground by saying it would be a “slow burner”.

He was right, too. Things took a while to get going.

The Who Hits Back! tour (originally postponed by Covid) is essentially the Who back with hits tour and an added bonus.

Original members Townshend and lead singer Roger Daltrey and their touring band were joined by the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.

The opening excerpts from Tommy dragged a bit and, to be honest, the strings didn’t always add much.

But Pinball Wizard was ace, with Daltrey’s brassy voice as strong as ever (he is 79) and drummer Zak Starkey coming off more like original Who sticksman Keith Moon than his dad, Ringo Starr.

The orchestra also made later hits Who Are You and the funky Eminence Front fairly leaden and it was only when they headed off stage that things moved into top gear.

The middle band-only section contained some of the best of the Who’s 1965-73 pomp. Substitute is still one of the greatest singles ever and My Generation sounded fantastic.

No one quibbles any more about the line “Hope I die before I get old” being sung by a pensioner.

It worked thanks to Daltrey’s famous stroppiness, refusing to grow old gracefully.

Daltrey occasionally struggled (there were ear monitor problems in You Better You Bet) but his trademark scream on Won’t Get Fooled Again was astonishing.

And his singing on Behind Blue Eyes with Townshend on acoustic guitar plus violinist Kati Jacoby and cellist Audrey Snyder was magnificent and touching.

The orchestra came back on for several numbers from Quadrophenia and that’s when the “plus strings” concept really did work.

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They added extra oomph to the explosive 5.15 and a cinematic feel to instrumental The Rock as well as beautifully complementing Daltrey’s voice on Love Reign O’er Me.

The evening ended with Baba O’Reilly and violinist Kati Jacoby handling the solo with aplomb.

The Who Hits Back! tour has divided critics and not always pulled in the crowds.

But at a pretty much sold-out Hove – essentially a homecoming show, thanks to the Mod band’s long links to Brighton – there was little doubt.

The Who are brilliant, with or without strings attached.