Mark Harden, Denver Post Popular Music Writer
July 4 - (You don't want to hear this.)
Besides possessing one of a handful of truly great rock 'n' roll voices, Roger Daltrey is one of the first buff rock stars. For 35 years, the Who's lead singer has been baring his chiseled chest on stage or swinging his mike like a lariat with steely arms.
(It's not too late to stop reading.)
At age 54, he still looks like a Tommy Hilfiger undie model who could bench-press B.B. King.
(You've been warned.)
Daltrey doesn't work out.
"I don't, actually. I'm very lazy. People don't believe it, but I am."
"I've just inherited the body I've got," Daltrey said the other day over the phone from England. "I was a sheet-metal worker. I got kicked out of school on my 15th birthday, and started humping bloody great heavy things around for the next six years.
"I just can't get fat. I'm very lucky in that sense."
Tonight, Daltrey will help us (mostly unlucky) Yanks celebrate our independence from his country. He'll perform at Fiddler's Green as featured vocalist on the opening night of the 28-city British Rock Symphony tour.
"It's just a reminder that you won the war, but we're still battling away," Daltrey says with a laugh. "We still retain chunks of culture within your country."
Backing him and various young American vocalists will be a 60-piece orchestra consisting of students from the Royal Academy of London. There's also a rock band of L.A. session musicians and a gospel choir from a New York City housing project.
And, naturally, fireworks will close the show.
As you would expect, Daltrey will belt out several of the Who classics he originated. But he and the other singers also will take turns on gems from the repertoires of other British rock bands of the '60s and '70s, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
Daltrey is modest in explaining how he got involved: "They needed a headliner and they couldn't find anyone else, and I agreed to do it. . . . And (producer David Fishof) is paying me very well, and I do need to make a living."
But Daltrey adds that he enjoys any chance he gets to take a stage.
"I do love to sing, and I need to sing to keep my voice up, because you never know when Pete Townshend is going to pick the Who up again, which I'm sure is going to happen."
More about that appealing prospect later.
Tonight's show will feature all or portions of some 50 rock songs. Daltrey speaks with relish about handling vocals on non-Who material.
"I definitely want to sing a Beatles (song), a Rolling Stones, a Zeppelin, a Pink Floyd, plus the Who songs," he says. "It'll be great. That's the bit I'm looking forward to."
The 2 1/2-hour show's orchestral backing is arranged and conducted by Keith Levenson, who worked with Daltrey on the latter's symphonybacked tour featuring the music of Who songwriter Townshend a few years ago.
"It should be really fun," Daltrey says. "If people can ignore the kind of symphony-rock things they may have heard in the past, and try and visualize this as one giant rock 'n' roll band, I think they'll be very pleasantly surprised with the sound that this lot makes. It's very funky, very soul-y.
"And the arrangements - there's not going to be anyone just sitting there having a nice easy ride playing string pieces that could be played on a synthesized keyboard. They're going to be sweating."
Daltrey says he never tires of singing Who hits like "My Generation," "I Can See for Miles," "Pinball Wizard," "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Love Reign O'er Me" - all of which are featured in the show.
"There's something about Who music that the energy always seems to remain. It's extraordinary," he says. Daltrey says he feels "proud and very lucky" to have been part of the Who. "When you think of the chances of four individuals coming together ... at that one moment in time, with the same interests and the same drive, to create that chemistry, it's a gift from God. And the audiences have to take some of the accolade, too, because Who audiences always gave us energy. We'd give it out and they'd throw it back to us, amplified."
As for the future of the Who - a band that seemingly retired in 1982 only to spring back to life from time to time - Daltrey sees encouraging signs.
For one thing, he and guitarist/chief songwriter Townshend have (for now anyway) put their bickering past behind them.
"We're getting on great these days," he says. "We felt that we really reformed our group relationship with the "Quadrophenia' tour. We rediscovered how to work together, and it was very satisfying."
That 1996-97 tour, which showcased the Who's sprawling 1973 double album of the same name, stopped at McNichols Arena on Oct. 29, 1996.
"I'm pretty optimistic that something will happen with the Who," Daltrey says. "It just won't be the old things that will happen in the past, a greatest-hits tour. We aim to at least try and do something new."
Door is open
That "something new," he says, may be the first all-new studio album by the former Who members since 1982's "It's Hard."
"Pete and I are talking,"' he says. "Let's see what happens. We might make a record (and) decide the record is not worth releasing. Then again, we might make a record that's fantastic and say, let's get this out and do another tour. But the door is open now. Pete and I really appreciate where we've come to in time."
Meanwhile, Daltrey has been working on various acting projects. He just completed a movie, tentatively titled "Romantic Moritz," with Christopher Lloyd, and he soon starts a sixpart miniseries for the BBC.