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Concert Reviews:
Roger Daltrey keeps it classic in Windsor

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2011

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WINDSOR, Ontario -- The Who's Roger Daltrey gave fans something special on Saturday night (Oct. 1) at the Colosseum at Caesar's Windsor -- but it wasn't necessarily what they expected it to be.

The lure for Daltrey's solo show was a performance of the Who's revered 1969 rock opera "Tommy" in its near-entirety. But it was the rest of the concert -- an additional 70 minutes and another dozen songs -- that was the real highlight, leaving the tale of the deaf, dumb and blind boy turned messiah in the rearview mirror.

The "Tommy" recitation was certainly proficient, as Daltrey's own band -- which includes Who guitarist Pete Townshend's younger brother Simon -- came equipped with six singers and enough instrumental firepower to capably reproduce the piece. And yet there was something stiff about it, a lack of the swing and abandon both from the recording and from the Who's own raw performances of it, that was missing. Daltrey and company hit the mark occasionally in songs such as "Christmas," the instrumental "Sparks," Sonny Boy Williamson III's "Eyesight to the Blind," "Pinball Wizard" and "Sally Simpson" -- but "Tommy," with its fuzzy libretto and Atari-quality video graphics, was carried by a sense of event and nostalgia, an exercise more than a genuine musical moment.

Fortunately, that missing spirit was more evident -- in abundance -- after the proverbial fat lady sang.

The same virtues that allow Daltrey and his band to capably pull off "Tommy" also allow them to revisit material that's dropped out of the Who's own live repertoire, and on Saturday he pulled out gems such as "I Can See For Miles," "The Kids are Alright" and "Going Mobile" (sung by Townshend) and dug deep for gentle versions of "Days of Light," which Daltrey dedicated to the working people of Windsor and Detroit, and the closing "Blue Red and Grey," which he played on ukulele.

The familiar backing vocal arrangement was restored to "Behind Blue Eyes," while Daltrey also offered the band Largo's Celtic-flavored civil rights anthem "Freedom Ride" and a medley of Johnny Cash tunes -- "I've Got Stripes," "Folsom Prison Blues," "There You Go," "Train of Love" and "Ring of Fire" -- that showed just how rich his lower register is at age 67 and a couple of years removed from throat surgery. And the group's titanic delivery of the Who arrangement of Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues" was worth the price of admission alone.

The latter half of the show also found the still-trim Daltrey -- who gradually managed to make sure his shirt opened all the way during the evening -- more chatty and connecting in a way the "Tommy" portion of the show didn't. His comments were warm and often funny -- sometimes unintentionally so, as when he forgot which high school (Southfield) hosted the Who's first Detroit area performance. He also railed against someone smoking -- something -- towards the front of the house, explaining that his surgery had left him allergic to the point where even traces of smoke could shut him down for the night. "Next time...please bring brownies," he quipped.

Daltrey also mused that he was entering "the golden years" of his performing career. Perhaps so, but Saturday's second half showed there's certainly plenty of shine remaining.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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