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ROGER DALTREY, Manchester Bridgewater Hall
We're at the stage now when our classic bands are down to one or two
actively performing original members like Roger Waters, Sir Paul
McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Brian May and the like. (Do I
mention Ringo here?) So it's only right that we savour the opportunities
when they are presented.
Pete Townsend is still suffering from Tinnitus and while we can all make
smart remarks about the excesses of yesteryear, Roger Daltrey put it
more succinctly by suggesting that we all need to be patient while the
composer salvages the rest of his hearing. Amen to that. Kid brother,
Simon ably obliged with the sibling parts.
'Tommy' formed the rubric of the show and I personally was looking
forward to re-assessing this work in a new light as it wasn't the
favourite of The Who's back catalogue due to the decidedly non "rock"
approach for at least 50% of the opera.
Daltrey himself looks good and it was heartening to see him strut onto
the stage like a 30 something with the rest of the band (no delayed bow)
quickly stating that this was not a show by The Who despite the
inevitable "ooo ooo oo" from the excited audience.
A word though for support act, Paul Freeman who is a captivating
talented singer songwriter with whom I made comparisons to Richard
Thompson due to the delivery of personal experiences (for example
sleeping with an older woman) laid bare, so to speak.
Judging by the extensive queue for the EP, he had empathised with many.
Freeman's were strong melodies with witty turns of phrase, accentuated
by strong acoustic guitar which you could clearly identify in the
generous acoustics of Bridgewater Hall.
So Roger Daltrey set 'Tommy' to task assisted by a series of animations on the
backdrop. But would this sulky kid (me) finally grow up and see 'Tommy'
in a more mature light now that he had had 30 odd years of life
experience with which to understand the work better?
Well I had no complaints about the musicianship and the classical
acoustics were pristine. Daltrey's voice was in fine fettle, only
occasionally going awry on a couple of octave chasers The cockles were
warmed by his stage presence and 'man in the street' swagger. We even
got the trademark mic juggling to whoops from the largely 40+ audience.
But (and it's a Big But), 'Tommy' still failed to move me as a complete
work. The theme, that a dead dumb and blind kid, could suddenly become
ignited by technology I now "get."
I am also in awe of Townsend's risk taking when The Who could have, even
at that time, rested on their laurels and sold out world tours aka The
Rolling Stones, yet opted for a more creative journey to self awareness.
As Daltrey himself pointed out when Robert Plant and he had a
conversation last week, the grass is always greener. Planty apparently
complained about the long solos where he had to wait in the wings for
the solo moments. Daltrey said he would have been quite thankful for
those little interludes. Unlike Page, Townsend was more about lyricism
and the continual dynamics of a song.
My contribution to this little debate as a fan and scribe is fairly
simple. I like a bit of both. Overall though I prefer to be surprised.
Apart from 'Pinball Wizard' and the emotive reprise and overture, I am
still not getting jiggy with Uncle Ernie or Cousin Kevin and fairground
rides all of which reminded me of 60's British social reality films
starring John Mills in braces and lines like "oi'll take me strap to ya'
Songs like 'Welcome' did stand out this time around and I could see that
the Overture was about the lad finally establishing his place in society
despite all the prejudice. Timeless themes, but to my mind the music is
'of its time.'
I didn't regret for one moment though witnessing a live rendition of
this seminal piece.
Roger Daltrey declared his hatred for encores so the rest of the set was
an extended part two in which he changed his mind on several occasions,
leading Simon Townsend to feign crashing his guitar over his head to a
witty repost of "eh he can't afford to break his guitars."
In the second half then, we were charmed by classics like The Who's
'Pictures of Lily' which apparently is about pornography and the
psychedelic undertones of "I Can See for Miles," both particularly
enhanced by the glorious ambience of Bridgwater Hall.
Heartfelt apologies to 'Tommy' era fans. I always got very angry when
reviewers got sniffy about my all time faves. But I would like to repeat
that Roger Daltrey is, on the evidence of this performance, not in the
pipe and slippers category and, if his old mate gets his ears sorted,
The Who legend has a couple more chapters in the offing.
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