Monday, 25 July 2011
ROGER DALTREY PERFORMS THE WHO’S TOMMY at the INDIGO2
It’s all right for art school Pete Townshend. He can potter about at home writing new songs. He can plod on with his autobiography. He can blog and blither on about his wife’s music or over-analyse his belly button. He has stuff to fill his time even if his ears are so shot that playing live is a no-no. After the rigmarole of his Unfortunate Incident had died down, he made a concerted effort to get a seat for The Who back on top table, saying he realised what a valuable brand The Who were. Yes, he said brand, not band. Not how I want to think of The Who but he thinks too much, that Peter, the head.
It’s not the same for sheet metal worker Roger Daltrey, the Shepherd’s Bush geezer who wanted everything to be a laugh and got terribly upset when it wasn’t. He gallantly does his Teenage Cancer Trust work but can only throw trout back in the water so many times before they get concussion. He is a singer, one of the boys, the heart. And despite his solo records he is The Singer From The Who; the vehicle for Townshend’s songs. Give him anything else and it doesn’t work, in a way he’s lumbered.
So, it’s Roger that’s out on the road with Tommy in what is billed, pointedly, as Roger Daltrey Performs The Who’s Tommy. The brand dear boy, don’t forget to mention the brand. The band includes Simon Townshend. I’ve often wondered about the Townshends. Simon is the substitute for another guy, his older brother. Pete can’t do it; bring in Simon. Roger is sweet and says he hasn’t got a brother, but if he did have, “it would be Simon Townshend-Daltrey.” Must be hard doing the same job in such shadow. Even in the battle of two bald men fighting over a comb, Pete won.
From the outset last night Roger, with cup of tea in hand, was keen to explain he was nasally due to the “fucking freezing” Norfolk winds blowing in his face two nights earlier. Therefore he did a few numbers to get his voice warmed up before tackling the main event. “I Can See For Miles” and “Pictures of Lily” got the (pin)ball rolling, followed by a chirpy, self-penned, “Days of Light” before talking about the music he listens to at home, how great it was to work with The Chieftains, and how pleased he was that Mumford and Sons were huge. That ominous warning over, he knocked out a couple of fiddly-diddly Irish folk tunes in “Gimme a Stone” and “Freedom Rider”, and subsequently scared off anyone thinking it was time for a new LP.
The introduction to Tommy paid tribute to Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp for believing music was more than just the three minute pop song (hmm, might need to have a word with them about that), and said when The Who had previously performed it, it was more like a circus act and not in its “pure form” like tonight. With that, it was a straight through, start to finish, “Overture” to a climatic “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. True to the album yet meatier and beatier. Listening to the record today it sounds tame by comparison. The fact I’ve gone back to the album tells you almost all you need to know. Tommy’s got it’s knockers but I’m not one of them. Putting “rock” and “opera” together is a hideous concept yet works here, especially when taken as a whole and hearing it live made me appreciate again what an ambitious and, for its time, daring album it was. Back in ’69 it was a tough cookie for a young man to sing and nasally Roger gave it his all, and when occasionally not hitting a note a look of “ah, bollocks, sod it” ran across his face as he lassoed his microphone around his head one more time.
Tommy over, “”Who Are You”, “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Going Mobile” and a cracking “Young Man Blues” and “Baba O’Riley” followed. By now Roger had all but totally unbuttoned his shirt and his still magnificent chest was on show. As he fumbled putting his mic back on its stand he joked “I can’t even get a screw”, to which Mrs. Monkey, to my left, bellowed “I WILL ROG!” much to the amusement of those around us. Luckily for me he was just out of earshot and I got to go home with Mrs. M. If those choices were predictable, a playful Johnny Cash medley wasn't, neither was “Without Love” from McVicar. After a full two and a half hours that flashed by, it looked like the end until there was only Daltrey left on stage to pay a touching tribute to John Entwistle and sing, to everyone’s amazement, “Blue Red and Grey” from The Who By Numbers.
He’s a nation treasure, Roger Daltrey. Someone should bottle him. He’d make a great brand.