Roger Daltrey isn't The Who's wordsmith, but his introduction to Saturday night's solo concert at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana's Showroom was spot on:
"There's enough misery out there," Daltrey said just after walking onstage to a standing ovation from the near-capacity crowd. "Let's have some fun."
And for the next 1:45, Daltrey, his surprisingly tight band and the mostly middle-age audience did just that during an 18-song set that mixed Who classics and rarities with releases from Daltrey's solo career and some of the 65-year-old's favorites by the likes of Johnny Cash and Mose Allison.
The positive reviews the tour has been receiving (here
) are merited; they aren't just critics giving a sop to one of their teen idols. (Although Daltrey could have passed gas into the microphone for 30 minutes and I probably would've praised the concert as daring and artsy.)
Daltrey was just as energetic at the 1,000-seat Showroom last night as he was when I saw him at Madison Square Garden with The Who a few years ago. The more intimate setting though allowed Daltrey to expound on the songs, often introducing them with an explanation of why he chose them or an anecdote about playing them with The Who.
Despite Daltrey's opening disclaimer, "I'll start by saying this is not a Who show," the concert began with four straight tracks from the band he's fronted for 46 years. But those songs--two rarities, two reworked classics--made it clear that Daltrey was in charge and The Who's guitarist and chief songwriter, Pete Townshend, was home in England.
First off was a stripped-down version complete with a stand-up bass of 1978's "Who Are You," which details an evening Townshend let get away from him in Soho. Halfway in the classic rock radio staple exploded into an arrangement closer to The Who's version, and the crowd exploded as well.
Next up was "Pictures of Lily." While Daltrey's take on the 1967-release was true to its original arrangement, it was still new to most members of the audience; The Who stopped performing it in 1968 Daltrey said, when John Entwhistle, The Who's bassist, was no longer able to hit the high notes--appropriate for a song that Daltrey described as being "all about your balls dropping."
Daltrey's take on "Behind Blue Eyes," which he introduced as his favorite Who song, started off as a subdued blues number in which Daltrey was accompanied by just a high hat and slapping on his guitar, before blowing up into a Who-like version, albeit a few bars later than normal.
"Tattoo" completed the opening salvo of Who songs. Like "Pictures of Lilly," the take of this rarely performed gem was true to the original.
And the show lost no momentum when five songs in Daltrey performed the night's first non-Who song, "Days of Light," a fun, upbeat solo release of his from 1987.
Other highlights included
- "Going Mobile"--guitarist and younger brother of Pete, Simon Townshend, took over lead vocals on a masterful rendition of this song from The Who's masterpiece album Who's Next
- "Young Man's Blues"--other than the "My Generation Blues" lead-in, the version of this Mose Allison cover was similar to the track that opened The Who's Live at Leeds album (that's a good thing)
- "Blue, Red" and Grey"--a poignant ballad Townshend sang on 1975's "The Who By Numbers" that he refused to play live, thinking he looked ridiculous strumming a ukulele
The evening's sole sour notes came not from the stage, but from the garrulous audience, probably the result of the casino venue and a late 9 p.m. start time.
While Daltrey was introducing a cover of Taj Mahal's "Freedom Ride" with a story about being an Englishman and playing a concert with the Irish folk group The Chieftains in Belfast during the height of Northern Ireland's Troubles, a woman was yelling at people in front of her for having the audacity to stand at a rock concert, causing many audience members--most importantly, me--to miss the story.
And later Daltrey admonished a few fans who were talking over him.
While the Horseshoe Southern Indiana's Showroom lacked the ambiance and history of Daltrey's show the previous night at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., the sound quality was surprisingly good.
In addition to Simon Townshend, accompanying Daltrey were guitarist and musical director Frank Simes, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button and drummer Scott Devours.
Paper Zoo and their Cream-like white-guy Afros opened for Daltrey with a set that showed they have potential as musicians but could use a better songwriter. Maybe somebody like Pete Townshend.
Daltrey's set list:
- Who Are You
- Pictures of Lily
- Behind Blue Eyes
- Days of Light
- Freedom Ride
- Gimme A Stone
- Going Mobile
- Free Me
- Walk on Water
- Squeeze Box
- I Can See For Miles
- Young Man's Blues (with My Generation Blues intro)
- Baba O'Riley
- Johnny Cash Medley
- Blue, Red and Grey
- Shakin' All Over
- Without Your Love
FTC disclosure: The Horseshoe Southern Indiana provided me with a media pass.
For more information: Read why I signed the Food With Wine petition--and you should too.
(Photo: Flickr/Annie Mole)