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Roger Daltrey with the Who Band and the Boston Pops

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA

June 15th 2018

by John Duval

 

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What drives a 74-year old classic rock icon to undertake such an ambitious project as performing the rock opera Tommy with a symphony orchestra? For Roger Daltrey it is teenagers. When I met him before the show he talked about his charitable organization Teen Cancer Centers of America and his hopes to serve the needs of that demographic in the US based on his success in the UK. Daltrey’s collaboration with The Boston Pops, Theo Epstein’s as yet unnamed foundation (seriously that is it’s working title) and Allyce Najimy of Hillcrest Hospital put on this performance to raise money for this cause.

Roger Daltrey’s enthusiasm for this endeavor translated into a beautiful performance of Tommy on a stage where he originally performed parts of it 49 years earlier. The Who did not play “The Overture” back then, yet the opener for the show was nothing short of stellar. The sweep of a full symphony behind The Who Band gave Tommy new depth and breadth. Attending an event like this is not expecting a replication of the original work, but rather, what is created when new elements are added to it. When Roger took the mic for “It’s a Boy” and “1921” you could feel the energy in his voice and his thrill of being onstage and working a crowd. As the performer he is, when he pulled the mic from the stand during “Amazing Journey” it was old-school Daltrey; a heavily corded microphone whipped in frenzied circles and snatched back from the air on its drop.

With “Sparks” my first real question of the night was answered. How does anyone sit down on a stool and try to replicate the drumming of Keith Moon circa 1968? The answer is having your drummer accompanied by a full orchestral percussion section. The Boston Pops brought the thunder (on a perfect night for a concert at their historic open-air venue).

My follow-up query was who do you get to cover Pete Townshend’s vocals and how would he sound? As it was Pete’s younger brother Simon Townshend, that was quickly and satisfactorily addressed. After “Eyesight for the Blind” was the first drop from the studio album. “Underture” was a natural choice when you have John Williams’s go to symphony sitting onstage behind the band.

Full gallery of photos here.

“Fiddle About” into “Pinball Wizard” obviously riled up the crowd and Roger’s voice was really good, especially given his struggles with his earpieces throughout the night. (At the end he quipped “It’s not my voice which will drive me from the stage, it’s the damned hearing.”) What Daltrey, The Who Band, and the Boston Pops did after Pinball Wizard is what made the show special. There are 11 songs following it on Tommy. They were played with the same intensity and musicianship established by the mid-marker. “Tommy Can You Hear Me?,” “I’m Free,” and “Welcome,” were all really tight and the closer “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was a vibrant closure to the set.

The encores were solid. Roger Daltrey got to go gravelly on “Who are You?” engaging the audience to sing along, and “Baba O’Reilly” was rather special, as the normally stoic violinist from the Boston Pops occasionally head-banged until ripping into the fiddle solo to end the piece. The night closed with a song Roger had written in the 1990’s called “Always Headed Home,” fitting really for his return to Tanglewood and his hopes for Teen Cancer Centers of America.

 

SET LIST:

1) Overture
2) It’s a Boy->1921
3) Amazing Journey->Sparks
4) The Hawker
5) Christmas
6) Cousin Kevin
7) The Acid Queen->Underture
8) Do You Think It’s Alright?->Fiddle About
9) Pinball Wizard
10) There’s a Doctor->Go to the Mirror!
11) Tommy Can You Hear Me?
12) Smash the Mirror
13) I’m Free
14) Miracle Cure->Sensation
15) Sally Simpson
16) Welcome
17) Tommy’s Holiday Camp
18) We’re Not Gonna Take It

Encore:
19) Who Are You
20) Baba O’Riley
21) Always Heading Home

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