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Roger Daltrey performs The Who's 'Tommy'

(14 Oct 2011: The Midland — Kansas City)

“Be lucky” Roger Daltrey advised the audience at the conclusion of his vigorous two hour performance. And his words were quite apropos. Daltrey’s complete rendition of Tommy (1969) from start to finish was most probably a once in a lifetime experience for many; the crowd was certainly fortunate to witness such a genuine cultural happening. Tommy, the double-album “rock opera” was inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998; the album has also sold at least twenty-million copies; it also inspired a film in 1975; it inspired a musical that appeared on Broadway and later in London’s West End, among other places. 


But Roger Daltrey is the principal singer for The Who, and the band is recognized in the United States for its legendary gig at Woodstock in the summer of 1969. Obviously, his voice has changed since he was in his mid-twenties: it’s not as high and soft, but tonight largely demonstrated that his voice is still sound and formidable. His voice is now rougher and much lower, which was a benefit to several songs such as “Fiddle About” and “Cousin Kevin”. Not to mention other classics like “Baba O’Riley”, arguably one of The Who’s most notable or popular songs aside from “My Generation”, which was not played. On the other hand, Daltrey’s voice during “Behind Blue Eyes” was relatively soft and in part comparable to the original recording; same with “I Can See For Miles”.


Daltrey was accompanied by a small army of musicians, and a lengthy collection of guitars. Aside from Daltrey, five other musicians significantly contributed to the show – including two guitarists, Frank Simes and Simon Townshend. Loren Gold was on keyboards; Jon Button on bass; and Scott Deavours on drums. Townshend, brother to The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend, played lead guitar exceedingly well throughout most of the concert; he also successfully sang lead on several Tommy tracks, such as “The Acid Queen”. Too, though understated, his mannerisms and strumming were quite reminiscent of his brother’s, especially the authoritative use of his arm. Frank Simes was talented but much too showy; he appeared to be a Slash—Eddie Van Halen impersonator, and came off as an absolute smoking mirror.


As for Tommy in performance, the best played song sequence entailed the back to back punch of “Fiddle About” and “Pinball Wizard”. During “Pinball Wizard”, Daltrey tossed his mic all about place, thereby re-enacting one of rock’s most iconic scenes. Also, “Sensation” and “I’m Free” unequivocally stood out, particularly the latter because Daltrey was seemingly effortless in his vocal approach. The lengthy finale, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, was excellent, and the audience stood up for the entire song. Daltrey himself didn’t say a word during Tommy, but afterword he was most talkative; he stated that he loved Johnny Cash and performed part of Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. Daltrey and band played several classic cuts from The Who, and the best of these were “Baba O’Riley”, “Behind Blue Eyes”, with Daltrey playing acoustic guitar, and “Who Are You”. During “Baba O’Riley” there was a minor technical problem involving the first lyrical bit, but Daltrey capably fought through it. Roger Daltrey successfully exhibited an amazing journey into the heart of Tommy.

William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


Tagged as: roger daltrey | the who | tommy
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What more is there to say about the rock opera, Tommy? Quite a lot.
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An exceptional package and a worthy commemoration of one of the most important rock albums of all time.
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How a rock opera from the '70s transformed what should have been another calm, neglectful Sunday in my life.
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I thought I was the Bally table king, but I just handed my pinball crown to the 113th Most Acclaimed Album of All Time. Counterbalance goes rock-operatic with a 1969 magnum opus.
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