LIVE: Roger Daltrey @ Tanglewood, 6/15/18

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

Incredibly, the last time Roger Daltrey sang the lead role in The Who’s rock opera Tommy at Tanglewood was in 1969, the year that the groundbreaking double album was released.

“Can you believe? 49 years ago,” he ruefully announced from the stage. I am happy to report that both the stocky vocalist and the rock opera he is indelibly linked with were in fine shape on a gorgeous summer night in the Berkshires.

Daltrey, at age 74, has lost some of his power and range, naturally. But in Lenox, he managed his voice excellently, singing virtually every part of the 75-minute piece, along with three songs as a short coda of a second set. Managed it better than he had the last time I saw the Who in 2006, touring the disappointing Endless Wire album. Back then Daltrey had often sounded strained and out of breath. But here, 12 years later, the affable frontman handled the iconic song cycle with expert control.

And Tommy, the rock opera? That, too, has stood the test of time remarkably well. Written (mostly) by a 24-year-old Pete Towshend with no formal musical training, it was one of the first large-scale concept albums, heralding a time when rock was encouraged to take itself more seriously, to think beyond the disposable three-minute single, to make a “statement.”

While the statement in Tommy’s somewhat confusing narrative is far from clear, it remains a terrifically exciting work. It is what it says on the tin. It’s an opera – but it ROCKS. Unlike many other rock/classical orchestral hybrid attempts, Tommy actually works, the Boston Pops arrangements enhancing and not stifling the power of the music.

Credit here to Daltrey’s excellent band – guitarists Simon Townshend and Frank Simies, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button and drummer Scott Devour. Townshend, Gold and Simies also supplied excellent backing vocals throughout, and the former even took the lead on “Acid Queen” to give Daltrey a break. The piece powered on to the glorious climax of “See Me Feel Me/Listening to You,” an epic anthem even by Townshend’s anthemic standards, and it almost seemed like 1969 again.

Daltrey closed out the show with the energetic one-two punch of Who hits “Who Are You” and “Baba O’Riley” and then took it down with a soulful track from his just-released solo album, As Long as I Have You. Chatting cheerily to the crowd, Daltrey rightly praised his band. “There’s only two people that can play rhythm guitar like that, and they’re both Townshends,” he cracked.

A great night with plenty of sparks. An amazing journey indeed.

Tommy (you know, the whole thing)
Who Are You
Baba O’Riley
Always Heading Home

New England Rock Review
Mass Live

1 Comment
  1. Ernie Dambrose says

    I agree with the review. Plus Simon Townsend did excellent on Pete’s “Acid Queen” and “Sally Simpson.” Also worthy of a mention was Katy Jacoby’s (from Ed Palermo’s Big Band) violin solo on “Baba O’Reilly.”

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