Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Roger Daltrey runs vocal marathon in Vancouver

The RunnerOnline Edition: November 8, 2011 | Print Edition: Volume 4, Issue 5

ISO 800 | f/2.8 | 1/80 | 52mm | -1 Step Jacob Zinn
Roger Daltrey sings “1921” during a performance of The Who’s Tommy Thursday night in Vancouver.

It might be named Rogers Arena, but on Thursday night, Roger Daltrey made it all about the Who’s Tommy.

Daltrey, 67, performed the 1969 classic rock opera in its entirety, going non-stop for 23 songs straight, including “See Me, Feel Me”, “Do You Think It’s Alright?” and “Pinball Wizard”.

He brought the essence of rock ‘n’ roll with microphone-swinging theatrics, and unlike other frontmen of his day who have gotten fat or out of shape, he can still get away with leaving his shirt unbuttoned.

Next time you come, please bring brownies. I don’t want to spoil anybody’s fun. Eat the bloody stuff!

Roger Daltrey

The live composition of Tommy was originally done for a one-off charity event, but its success turned into a 28-date tour of Canada and the United States.

“This has proved that it’s a classic,” said Daltrey of the 42 year-old double album.

At times in the show, his voice wavered, and it seemed every other song was led by the backing vocalists.

There’s a reason for that: after a few successful surgeries to his larynx (the voice box), Daltrey has developed a severe allergic reaction to smoke.

That’s bad news, considering Vancouver is the marijuana growing capital of Canada. Twice he seriously threatened to walk off if people didn’t quit smoking.

“Next time you come, please bring brownies,” he said. “I don’t want to spoil anybody’s fun. Eat the bloody stuff!”

By the end of Tommy, the crowd gave a standing ovation, and they stayed on their feet into Daltrey’s 13-song encore, mostly of Who tracks.

He started with the classics “I Can See for Miles”, “The Kids Are Alright” and “Behind Blue Eyes”, during which fans put their lighters in the air, not to their mouths.

He sang “Days of Light” from his 1992 solo record, Rocks in the Head, then brought out a harmonica for “Going Mobile” and “Naked Eye”.

The crowd got up again for “Who Are You”, and to give his voice a rest from all the high notes, Daltrey followed that with a medley of Johnny Cash songs, including “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”.

He kept the tone low with “Young Man Blues” and a slow, drum-and-bass version of “My Generation” before lighting up the middle-aged wasteland with “Baba O’Riley”.

He closed the show with 1980’s “Without Your Love” and 1975’s “Blue Red and Grey”. At the end of the vocal marathon, the show clocked in around two-and-a-half hours and 36 amazing songs.

Low ticket sales may have forced the show to use theatre seating in only seven sections of the lower bowl and less than a third of the overall floor.

There were no pyrotechnics or strobe lighting to up the visuals, but what was really missing was the showmanship. Pete Townshend’s absence meant no powersliding, windmills or broken guitars, and the late Keith Moon left a gap for destroyed drum sets.

But it made for a strangely intimate performance, with low lighting and ambient sound overtaking half of the stadium.

Daltrey did say that, despite his voice problems and Townshend’s hearing loss, they’re working on a tour for next year, though nothing’s confirmed.

Who knows?

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