By Phyllis Pollack
"Hey, you smoking mother nature, this is a bust" were among the lyrics heard at last night's concert in Los Angeles at Nokia Theatre, during which The Who's Roger Daltrey performed the band's 1969 Tommy album in its entirety. Daltrey, who has been through extensive throat surgery, stopped the show at one point to make a statement directed at someone "in the the second row," who was smoking marijuana. Daltrey told him not to smoke it during the show. He explained, "I'm allergic" to smoke. He then said that he has to distance himself from it because of his recent surgeries.
Despite his medical issues, Daltrey's voice was consistently agile throughout the show, with no signs of problems. Daltrey sounded so good, that no one would have known he had serious problems, unless they had kept up with the band's press, or heard Daltrey's confessionals made throughout the evening.
The band did not depend on trappings like backdrops, lasers, pyrotechnics or elaborate special effects, although there were video screens. The focus was clearly on the music, and particularly on Daltrey's delivery. While Daltrey's band was did not have the volume of The Who, a band whose decibel level is known for being turned up to eleven, the six musicians delivered a powerful and poignant show.
The majority of the enthusiastic crowd remained on its feet throughout the entirety of the show from the moment the band began playing the Overture from Tommy until the show ended, with Daltrey singing and playing a ukelele. During the evening, Daltrey played instruments including tamborine, guitar and harmonica.
Daltrey is currently on a 23 date tour, playing the Tommy album's tracks, along with a few additional assorted Who numbers. Some of the tour dates are slated for Canada, and there are only 14 nights of the tour's itinerary booked in the States. The band has been on tour since September 23, and the six-week trek ends on November 12. Proceeds from the shows are being directed to the Teenage Cancer Trust Charity.
Daltrey's current touring band consists of guitarist Simon Townshend, the younger brother of Who guitarist Pete Townshend. Also on guitar is Frank Simes, who also serves as the group's music director and arranger. The band also includes drummer Scott Deavours, bassist Jon Button and keyboardist Loren Gold.
Daltrey said of the band's Tommy performances, "It keeps our music out there, and I'm proud of what we do. I'm proud of this band." The album became adapted into an award-winning feature film in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Daltrey, himself, and several other major stars.
After performing the long set of songs from Tommy, the band then played several more Who songs, including "I Can See For Miles," "The Kids Are Alright," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Going Mobile," "Who Are You," and "Baba O'Riley," "Pictures of Lilly" and "Young Man Blues." The band also delved into Taj Mahal's "Freedom Ride."
The blond rock icon also made it clear he knew that many in the audience wanted to know why he was touring with his present band, and what the future would hold for his fellow bandmates back home. Referring to The Who's guitarist Pete Townshend, who has famously been battling hearing loss and tinnitus for decades, Daltrey announced, "Pete's working on getting his ears sorted out, because he really is having trouble, and I'm working on getting us out on the stage, very quiet, so that if we ever do tour again, and I know he really wants to, but it's an issue." Daltrey then said he didn't want to do force him to tour if it were going to result in his becoming "deaf." Noted Daltrey, "He's a fabulous composer, and if he loses his hearing, that might be the end of that. And that's too big a price to pay. For me anyway. Because I love the man's music so much, But anyway, we are talking about it, and we're working on the problems we have to solve, and you never know. Next year, let us hope the economy picks up, and we can get back out there, and we can sort our problems out, and we'll be back. We haven't gone away." The audience responded with solemn and reverent applause.
Several times, Daltrey referred to his earlier years before playing with The Who, when he worked at a sheet metal factory. He expressed his gratitude to the audience for his chosen career, noting, "So many people come up to me and say, 'Roger, thanks so much for the music. It's the soundtrack to my life. Your voice just echos through my life.' And I have to say to them all, 'Thank you for what you've done for me.' Because without you guys, I would still be in that sheet metal work factory. I really would. I would still be there. It's a team effort. That's what music is all about."
Daltrey proclaimed, "I might be on stage, but not a pedestal." The vocalist, who has been a sensation for decades, added, "I never want to be anywhere else."
Daltrey referred to his surgery more than once during the evening, at one point saying, "The guy who did my throat gave me strict orders to sing something low towards the end of the show, and of course, Who songs, they are the opposite from low. I mean, I go home, and sometimes my balls are like a couple of oysters." The audience roared with laughter. Daltrey continued, "So I thought, 'What the f^%# can I sing?' I thought, 'I know. I thought back again to when I was fifteen years old, and twenty-five guys were banging out bits of tin all day long. Bang, bang, bang, and guillotines going, presses clainging. And to alleviate the boredom we used to sing. And we'd sing all kinds of stuff, anything. Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis. But the best person to really get things going, and sing his songs was Johnny Cash." Daltrey noted, "And at fifteen years old, I didn't know who the bloody hell Johnny Cash was, but there was something that came out the man that just grabbed me by the ears and shook me. I just have always loved him through my life. I loved what he stood for. I loved the fact that even if you didn't agree with him, he he stood by what he believed in."
Daltrey remarked, "The man did his best work at the end of his life." He also noted, "Not many people play his songs. We should never forget how good he was."
Daltrey, who was clearly pacing his voice throughout the evening, stated, "So it's just a little medley" he was going to perform next, because he had to spend some time keeping his vocal register low, in order to "go back up before the end of the show."
With these accolades, Daltrey performed Cash's works "I Got Stripes" and "Ring of Fire," giving a jaw-dropping, splendidly country-soaked delivery that would have even impressed "the man in black," himself.
The British vocalist also paid tribute to late Who bandmates John Entwistle and Keith Moon. He paused between phrases, saying, "John Entwistle is there all the time when I play Who music." He commented, "I only need to hear the music, someone playing the bass line and the drums, and those two fu****s, those two fu****s, and I loved them to bits. I still do, and Ox, this one is for you, John and Keith, wherever you, bouncing around the universe."
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