Roger Daltrey, House of Blues, Boston, Mass.: Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009
"Let's get together, before we get much older." That line, from "Baba O'Riley," really summed up the evening with Roger Daltrey, a rare tour of midsize clubs (micro, on The Who scale) to play songs he likes, whether he originally sang on them or not. Cynics might have zeroed in on "My Generation" and the line "Hope I die before I get old line," but although Daltrey played a snippet of the song on the end of the cover of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man," he didn't include that (now) self-defeating lyric. This performance was instead a celebration of life, music, and enjoying existence while you still can. Daltrey knows he's been blessed with a great life and career, so rather than sitting at home on the sofa, he's decided to hit the road on the Use It Or Lose It tour, with Pete Townshend's brother Simon on guitar and a bunch of hired guns from L.A. rounding out the band.
Though he started with a 1-2-3 punch of Who songs ("Who Are You," "Pictures of Lily," and what he termed his favorite Who song, "Behind Blue Eyes"), he made it very clear later on that this performance was a solo jaunt, and he wasn't pretending to pass it off as a Who show. Indeed, he was smiling throughout the entire performance, and was very chatty between songs, almost in a Ray Davies/Storyteller way. He shared some details and observances on songs ("Pictures of Lily," about the harmonies of The Who and the dropping of John Entwistle's bollocks; the cover of the Chieftains' "Freedom Ride," about how Belfast was the Baghdad of its time; and about how Johnny Cash was the songwriter of choice for impromptu sing-alongs at the sheet-metal factory he once worked in as a youth). It wasn't a Who show, of course, which meant some parts flagged, but "Going Mobile" whipped the crowd back to a frenzy; secret weapon Simon Townshend took the lead vocals and sounded eerily close to his brother, although he looked more like a cross of Pete and Hunter S Thompson. Great rendition, with Daltrey adding harmonica.
The night's highlights were a genuine "let's take you back to the '60s moment" with "I Can See For Miles" (the psychedelic classic sitting proudly and properly next to "Eight Miles High" as a canonical achievement) and the gutter-stomp blast of "Young Man Blues," captured so lucidly on Live at Leeds and still so alive and vital today, even though Daltrey certainly doesn't relate to the part of not having anything in the world these days. This song ran straight into the FM radio warhorse/classic "Baba O'Riley," and despite everyone in the building having heard this hundreds of times throughout their lives, it still had all the power and defiance it captured so perfectly in 1971.
The point of the whole tour was underlined in a very direct manner with a poignant reading of "Blue, Red and Grey," a minor song on the underrated The Who By Numbers. In fact, it's a song that Daltry doesn't even sing on, just Townshend, but he clearly loves the song and its sentiment, and he played the lone ukulele accompaniment while his voice (suffering a bit from a recent cold on top of the decades of screams and stress he's piled on it) struggled to reach some of the higher registers. Clearly he didn't choose this song to showcase his technical prowess, but, then, you could tell that was never his intention. The comfortably full house couldn't have agreed more.
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