Let’s cut to the chase here people…
Can Roger Daltrey, legendary front man for The Who, still get the job done? Or is his latest tour a glorified Vegas lounge act looking to cash in on aging boomers desperate to re-live their glory days? Friday night’s show at the Midland answered both questions.
Yes, Daltrey can still hit (practically) all the notes, can still command the stage with his energy and presence, and can still twirl the hell out of a microphone. And no, the show didn’t feel like a re-tread, perhaps due in part to the number of younger folks that ventured out to see the next best thing to The Who for the very first time.
As advertised, the first act of the show consisted of Daltrey’s band playing note for note the classic rock opera, Tommy. Included in the mix was Pete Townshend’s younger brother, Simon, who played well on guitar and even better on vocals for several songs.
The band took the stage and didn’t waste much time with pleasantries, launching instead directly into the 1969 classic that tells the story of a deaf, dumb, blind kid on his journey of enlightenment. Or something like that.
Everything sounded balanced and solid, but Daltrey wanted something tweaked a bit as he pointed and gestured to the sound booth a few times. A customary plexi-glass shield separated the drum kit from the rest of the band, as Scott Devours laid down an extremely solid foundation for the others to build on.
As the band rocked through the first third or so of the album, the crowd was enthusiastic, but not super energized. A young couple in about the 5th row got into a shouting match with some boomers behind them because they wanted to stand and sway to absorb the show instead of remaining seated.
"You sit down!" "No, you stand up!"
Come on folks, I mean, it is a rock show after all.
The boomers went and got security, who tried to make the kids stay seated, and it kinda worked for a few minutes. That is, until the opening chords of Pinball Wizard raced out of Townshend’s acoustic guitar – after that all bets were off and most everyone remained standing the rest of the way, even the disabled vet with a walker who was in front of me.
With heightened energy, the band roared through the next several tracks, which were the best of the night, including Go To The Mirror!, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash the Mirror, and Sensation.
Daltrey’s voice was spot on as he hit all the notes impeccably, and I must say, other than a slight difference in the maturity of his voice, he sounded like 1969 all over again. No straining, no cop-outs really, just pure, powerful Daltrey.
Never was this more apparent than on the final song of the album, We’re Not Gonna Take It. Hearing Daltrey mesh with his band while offering the sparkly familiar pleading, “See me… Feel me… Touch me… Heal me…” was magical, and goose bump inducing.
The crowd responded with a standing ovation, and Daltrey finally broke character to address the audience.
“I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.” The audience cheered.“It’s an organic album and Pete wrote most of it, but it’s a classical work, and it stands up today, I believe.”
“So, now it’s party time!”
More wild cheers as the band broke into I Can See For Miles, followed by The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, and some other hits.
To be honest, I could’ve done without a Johnny Cash medley towards the end, but that’s kind of nit picking.
As the night came to a close, it looked like Daltrey was struggling a little bit vocally, but he fought through it impressively.
What a badass!
A stage hand delivered what looked like some water and maybe some kind of tea to help him stretch out those chords.
At one point in Baba O’Riley, which was the final song of the night, Daltrey faltered for a brief second with the famously high yet robust vocal line. It was a tiny miscue, and he waved his hand in acknowledgement at the audience.
But I couldn’t fault the man for that millisecond. No way, not after that show, described by several people as “best of the year.” And these are people that go to a ton of shows, mind you.
Was it the best of the year for me? No, I don’t think so. But it’s pretty easily in the top ten.
Tommy (entire album)
I Can See For Miles
The Kids Are Alright
Behind Blue Eyes
Days of Light
Gimme A Stone
Johnny Cash medley
Who Are You?
Young Man Blues