|The Who's Roger Daltrey performs at the Sony Centre in Toronto, Ont., Sep. 30, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - One half of The Who’s remaining members -- singer Roger Daltrey -- came to the Sony Centre on Friday night to perform the British rock band’s legendary 1969 rock opera, Tommy, plus some Who classics during a marathon two-and-half-hour concert.
The fact that the 67-year-old Daltrey can even sing is a miracle. The last time I saw him, at Casino Rama in November 2009, he was really struggling vocally despite possessing an amazing physique and the energy of a man half his age.
It turned out he had a precancerous growth on his vocal chords that was later removed. While he’s still not singing like he used to in his heyday -- his voice cracked several times Friday night -- he definitely had his moments on such Tommy standouts as Pinball Wizard, Sensation, I’m Free and We’re Not Going to Take It, along with Who classics like I Can See For Miles, The Kids Are Alright and Baba O’ Riley, the latter featuring him unbuttoning his shirt all the way (it was an impressive display).
When Daltrey couldn’t belt, he’d do a blues version of a normally electric rock song -- like on My Generation or Who are You -- or swing his microphone around to distract the older-skewing audience made up of a lot of high-fiving males (although the odd child was dragged along too.)
The real revelation, however, was Simon Townshend, younger brother of Who guitarist Pete Townshend, the latter who is dealing with some hearing problems and is not along for the ride this time.
Simon, joined by guitarist Frank Simes, drummer Scott Deavours, bassist Jon Button and keyboardist Loren Gold, proved to be the perfect substitute -- pun intended.
With his strong, Pete-reminiscent vocals and guitar playing on such Tommy songs as It’s a Boy, The Acid Queen (although I missed Tina Turner it has to be said), and The Who’s Going Mobile, Simon was key in keeping the show moving along.
Playing on a stage dominated by six lighting towers and a large video screen onto which mostly abstract, sometimes disturbing, animation was played to accompany the Tommy tracks, Daltrey and the band possesed some nice chemistry to go along with clean, loud sound.
In particular, guitarists Townshend and Simes played well off each other during such Tommy songs as Amazing Journey and Sparks.
But it really wasn’t until a good 35 minutes into the show that the audience first jumped to their feet for Tommy’s arguably best known and loved song, Pinball Wizard, with both Townshend and Simes working their guitar magic while Daltrey carried the tune vocally.
It’s a powerful song with a powerful impact, even after 42 years in existence.
Daltrey and company wouldn’t produce the same excitement again until the rousing We’re Not Going To Take It, the final song in the Tommy cycle, that segued into such killer Who highlights as I Can See For Miles, The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Young Man Blues, Who are You and Baba O’Riley during the show’s second half, which saw the crowd remain on their feet the entire time.
Daltrey also mentioned the late Who bassist John Entwistle in his final number, Blue Red and Grey, featuring him on ukelele, saying Entwistle did all the arrangements and playing it “brings John back to me.”
It’s a Boy
Eyesight to the Blind
The Acid Queen
Do You Think It’s Alright?
There’s a Doctor
Go to the Mirror!
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
Smash the Mirror
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It
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I Can See For Miles
The Kids Are Alright
Behind Blue Eyes
Days of Light
Who Are You
Young Man Blues
Without Your Love
Blue Red and Grey
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Sony Centre, Toronto, Ont.
Sep. 30, 2011
QMI Agency rating: 3.5/5