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Hammond Can You Hear Me? Print E-mail
Monday, 17 October 2011

The two great rock operas of the modern era share a similar theme: daddy died in the war and mommy fucked up my life. Since the 70s--and probably for generations to come--many have debated the merits of Tommy vs. The Wall. General consensus seems to hold that Tommy is the better album, and The Wall the better film. Both are ranked in the top 100 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time; both have sold albums in the tens of millions; both were adapted for the screen; both have been arranged for symphony orchestra; and Tommy has even been produced as a Broadway musical.

Roger Daltrey and the 'No Plan B' band

The Venue (Horseshoe Casino)
Hammond, IN
October 7, 2011

Recently, they have also both been dusted off and put back on the road for their first live performances in more than 20 years. Roger Waters is currently in the middle of a highly successful tour of The Wall that started in late 2010 and has plans to continue into 2012. In accord with the great Pink Floyd tradition, Waters is presenting The Wall as a highly elaborate theatrical undertaking, one of the most complex concert tours ever staged. It just wouldn't feel right to forgo the flying pig.

Roger Daltrey has resuscitated Tommy in much the same way, but scaled the execution down from Waters' excess, preferring to play clubs and theaters rather than arenas and stadiums. Daltrey is also emulating Waters by perfuming without his better half. In Waters' case, The Wall is a broadly autobiographical work, mostly authored by him. Daltrey, however, is touring without the Who's only other surviving member, Pete Townshend, who composed and performed most of the original opus. The question on everyone's mind when entering the venue: could he take such a momentous work and do justice to it as a solo performance?

He did.

The audience was unsure at first. Daltrey spent a lot of time standing back out of the light and shaking tambourines. Singing duties for the early part of the show were handled mostly by Pete Townshend's brother Simon. Simon did an admirable job replicating Pete's contributions on guitar and vocals, but never really carried the same stage presence as his older brother. Once Daltrey stepped up to the mic, however, all doubt was removed--his recovery from throat surgery was an unheralded success. He's not the dynamic, roaring Daltrey of old--but for a rock vocalist pushing 70, he was certainly in fine form.

From the soaring highs of "Acid Queen" to the gruff pedophile "Uncle Ernie," Daltrey brought Tommy to life in a marathon performance. With a well-selected group of musicians backing him, at times you could certainly not believe that this material was now over 40 years old. Where the performances were outstanding, however, the visuals were abysmal. The video projections accompanying the show were distracting... and often atrocious. The graphics for the show were created by art, design and computing students from Middlesex University. While it's great that Daltrey supports these up-and-coming artists, their burgeoning talent just isn't sufficient to produce a truly professional product, and the show suffers for it.

After the 70+ minute roller coaster that chronicles the tale of deaf, dumb and blind Tommy, Daltrey spent a few minutes chatting-up the crowd and introducing the 'No Plan B' band (including a tongue-in-cheek introduction of "my brother, Simon Towshend-Daltrey") before leaping headlong into a second set of solo work and Who hits. Opening with "I Can See For Miles," "The Kids Are Alright" and "Behind Blues Eyes," it appeared Daltrey was going to play it safe with faithful renditions of Who standards. For the most part, thatís exactly what he did. Four songs in, however, he took a short detour and loosened up a bit. Offering "Days Of Light" off of 1992's Rocks in My Head, his last official solo album, brought the audience a song they donít often get to hear. "Days Of Light" peaked at No. 6 on the US charts and was inspired by Daltreyís pre-rock star life working in a sheet-metal factory--a job he would reminisce about several times during the course of the evening.

Sadly, aside from "Days of Light," the only other solo tune Daltrey performed was "Without Your Love" from the McVicar soundtrack. No "Free Me" from the same soundtrack, or even the Pete Townshend-penned "After The Fire," that charted at No. 3 in the states back in 1985. Instead, Daltrey offered up covers like a medley of Johnny Cash tunes and "Freedom Ride," from the 1998 concept album Largo, an album that Daltrey has been a strong proponent of while on this tour. Itís a shame he didnít take the chance and showcase more of his own solo catalog that spans almost three decades.

With that said, Daltrey still yielded a few nuggets that made the show worth attending. The last minute inclusion of The Whoís "Naked Eye" has to be one of them. Introducing it as a special request, the 'No Plan B' band gave a rousting and powerful performance of this much under-rated song. "Naked Eye" is part of the Who's regular rotation, but it has not been performed very often on Daltrey's solo tour.

Daltrey did go back to the setlist, performing radio staples "Who Are You" and "Baba OíRiley," tunes that are apparently required at all Who shows and on Daltreyís solo tour as well. At least with "Who Are You," Daltrey and the boys put their own spin on it--stripping it down to make the experience unique. With such an extensive arsenal of available tunes at their finger tips, itís a shame that many rock legends take the easy road and offer up the obvious.

Closing the evening, Daltrey did surprise the fans one final time with nostalgia--and a little bit of wit. "Red Blue and Grey," from The Who By Numbers, and originally sung by Pete, was an unusual but welcome closer. Introducing it by stating Pete never wanted to perform it live "because you look like a fucking idiot on stage with a ukulele... well, here I am." Daltrey explained that one the reasons he likes it because John Entwistle did the brass section and "it's like John and the band is still here."

The Who have been touring on and off for the last several decades, and playing a very similar setlist on every outing. Itís not very often one gets a chance to see an artist of Roger Daltreyís caliber in such an intimate setting. However, even after all these years, Daltrey is still living in the shadow of the seminal band and its chief architect--Pete Townshend. Perhaps as the tour continues, Daltrey will trust more in his solo material, or unearth a few more deep Who cuts to share with his rabid fan base.

Written by Guest on 2011-10-18 08:35:04
Why doesn't he do 'Bargain'???
Giving It All Away
Written by Guest on 2011-10-18 14:55:03
He did "Giving It All Away" in Boston!
Written by Guest on 2012-09-22 09:38:51
About the AuthorI'm just a guy who's mother used to play music cotnnastly when I was as a child. I was exposed to a slew of 40's & 50's acts like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Bill Haley & The Comets, Chuck Berry, Danny & The Juniors and countless one hit wonder bands. Add in your Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Eddie Fisher with scores of popular soundtracks like Zorba The Greek and West Side Story and it's no wonder I became a music fiend. Thanks Mom. My first 45 RPM was The Letter by The Boxtops, but I went on to own a pretty decent 45 collection until I got the brainiac idea to sell it to the neighbors so I could buy baseball cards. Goodbye priceless Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, and Animals collector's items. Hello seven copies of backup catchers. I've been collecting since 1967 or so. Be it eight track tapes, cassettes, 45's, LP's, CDs, MP3's...even VHS or DVD copies of live performances; I've been going at it quite a while. When I was asked to contribute to this site I didn't have to be asked twice. I'm having a ball...
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I would love to see Lumino feature