More about: The Who
It’s a homecoming of sorts. These annual concerts, which take place every March in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, were instigated by The Who’s frontman Roger Daltrey, with the band playing what was meant to be a one-off charity concert in 2000.
Eighteen years on, and he’s still bringing us legendary performers and brilliant homegrown talent – and all for a great cause. Daltrey, who has performed both solo and with The Who on eight previous occasions and is a patron of the charity, is warmly received by an audience who respect his dedication to TCT. And of course, most of all, love his music.
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It’s a very much a family affair as well with a band including Simon Townshend (Pete’s little brother whose nappies Daltrey remembers changing, he tell us) and other musicians he’s collaborated with over the years. They all naturally bounce off each other with extended guitar solos and jamming that thankfully avoids any self-indulgence.
Daltrey is one of the last of the classic rock goliaths, whose success and longevity has lent a mythical like status to them. Not that Daltrey doesn’t remind us he is a person just like us. One of the most heartening things about the show is that he exudes an ordinary and genuine persona. He is wiry and witty; he dedicates not one but two songs to Mark Zuckerberg “who’s having a bad day” and lamenting his approach to cyber security, while the Leo Sayer co-written solo track, ‘Giving It All Away’, is introduced as being recorded in a “shithole barn”. Vocally, he is as powerful as ever; he doesn’t ask ‘Who Are You’ but rather interrogates with a vocal wall of sound.
When it comes to the setlist, it’s a mostly satisfying greatest hits mix of The Who (‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘I Can See For Miles’ and ‘Athena’ are all rapturously received) and his solo work. To hear The Who’s songs is to be reminded of how innovative and ambitious they were through their use of advanced music tech and complex concept albums, and how effective Daltrey was at bringing to life Townshend’s compositions.
Sadly his solo stuff never lives up to the standard he himself has set. While ‘Days Of Light’ is a fun, folky bop for the “blue collar worker” and new song ‘As Long As I Have You’ a nice tribute to the soul/Motown sound of the 60s, there are some questionable song choices that veer towards the saccharine and threaten to destroy the momentum already built.
It’s disappointing for Daltrey choosing to end the show on another new song, the mawkish ‘Always Heading Home’ rather than ‘Baby O'Riley’, that has the crowd coming together to sing “Don't cry, don't raise your eye/It's only teenage wasteland” or ‘My Generation’.
However, for the most part, the show highlights why Daltrey is still so widely respected and casts him as a still relevant performer rather than a relic.
Words: William Craigie
Photo: Michael Hurcomb/REX/Shutterstock
More about: The Who