At the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday, October 10
Before heading off to see Roger Daltrey I made up a list of the five Who songs I figured he’d be most likely to perform—along with the solo material nobody much cared about. These weren’t my fave Who tunes—most of those are non-hits from the brilliant Quadrophenia album—just ones synonymous with the British rock legends. The songs I came up with were “I Can’t Explain”, “My Generation”, “Magic Bus”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and “Who Are You”. As it turns out I’m a lousy predictor of set lists, because I only got one right. At least it was the opener.
Looking about as fit as any 65-year-old rock god ought to, Daltrey strode on-stage and started strumming an acoustic guitar for a slowed-down version of “Who Are You”, the title track from the final Who album to feature drum legend Keith Moon. “That will be the last familiar Who song you’ll hear tonight,” announced Daltrey right after it, but he was only joking, immediately heading back to 1967 for the hit single about masturbation, “Pictures of Lily”, and then, rather unexpectedly, tossing in “Going Mobile”, a bouncy ditty off 1971’s classic Who’s Next. That tune sported a tasty wah-wah solo by guitarist and musical director Frank Simes, who shared the six-string duties with Simon Townshend, younger brother of Who main man Pete.
Daltrey continued to bring the surprises when he was left alone on-stage to perform “Blue Red and Grey”, a track off 1975’s The Who By Numbers, accompanying himself on ukulele. Before performing the tedious “2,000 Years” he proclaimed “You can sing this one to me,” but no one took him up on the offer. Just as well, since he got his songs mixed up.
“This is the one that’ll make you sing,” Daltrey corrected afterward, “not that one. Fucking lists. They’re always wrong.” Then the familiar strains of another Numbers track, “Squeeze Box”, did indeed convince a good portion of the capacity crowd to sing along.
Another screwup occurred when Daltrey forgot the lyrics partway through “Days of Light”, an upbeat song from his 1992 solo album, Rocks in the Head. He explained that it was only the second time he’d sung it in his life, so the other time must have been when he did it on Late Night with David Letterman, as documented on YouTube. At any rate, he didn’t seem too flustered by the slip-up; it was, after all, the first show of his first solo tour since 1985. He just cheerfully started the song over again. What a smashing bloke.
After re-creating some of the ruckus of the Who’s late-’60s Live at Leeds period with “Young Man Blues”, Daltrey led the group in a medley of Johnny Cash tunes then wasted our time with the childish “Boris the Spider” before compensating with “Baba O’Riley”. “I’m now going to do a half hour of Jerry Lee Lewis songs,” he teased when called back for an encore, but instead he ended the night on a stellar note with Quadrophenia’s “The Real Me”. Hey, if he was only gonna play one song off that sprawling masterpiece, at least he picked the right one.