Aaron Beck, The Columbus Dispatch
Even with a nasty chest cold most of us can drag ourselves through a work day.
Then again most of us don't have jobs that include singing familiar anthems heard 'round the clock on "classic-rock" radio.
But rather than call in sick Monday night, Who vocalist Roger Daltrey went ahead with his work - belting out several Who standards and a chunk of new tunes before 11,000 fans in Value City Arena.
From the start of the concert, the band's final show of a seven-week jaunt until picking up again Feb. 23 in Reno, Nev., Daltrey's voice sounded rough — Joe Cocker rough.
His 61-year-old voice on Endless Wire, the Who's first album since 1982, is deep and coarse and, naturally, without the range of 24 years ago.
But last night he sounded as if he'd gargled pea gravel backstage during the Pretenders' opening set.
Having made their way through the first four tunes (I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere and the new Fragments), the Who allowed the rapt audience a respite.
"I have really bad bronchitis," Daltrey croaked. "But it was either we cancel the show or we play. But it doesn't (expletive) matter. It's rock 'n' roll, right?"
With that, Daltrey and 61-year-old cohort Pete Townshend and their rock-solid employees — drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino and guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's 46-year-old brother) — launched into a thunderous Who Are You.
The Who tempered their power chord-laden classics with several new songs, including those comprising Townshend's tedious, mid-tempo mini opera Wire and Glass.
After mixing Baba O'Riley and Eminence Front among a handful of new tunes, Townshend thanked the crowd for "being patient" with the unfamiliar songs and for "buying the new CD."
The guitarist, who wind milled at his guitar and performed many a patented leaping stomp, was gregarious from the time he walked on stage and cracked a Michigan-Ohio joke.
He had a lot on his mind, from Buckeye state sexcapades — "I've never had sex in Ohio," he said before the band played Song No. 1 to reasons for hitting the road with the Who several times since the band's 1982 "farewell tour."
Midway through the concert he said, "We do love to play the old stuff but it's quite weird for us to be out, you know. We've done a few of these comeback tours, mainly to keep (the late bassist) John Entwistle out of debtors' prison and so he could keep up his rock-star lifestyle — the rock-star lifestyle that eventually led to his death."
"Anyway, thank you. Now we're going to play a large chunk of old stuff."
He laughed for a moment and said, "We'll start off with this cheesy thing" and then the band played the cheesy You Better You Bet.
Through them all Daltrey hung in there, and when the time came in Won't Get Fooled Again for the bantam singer to let fly the climactic banshee wail Daltrey let fly. And from then on his voice sounded positively shredded.
Lesser millionaire rock singers might have called it day but Daltrey returned, tea in hand, to sing some more.
Before playing 20 minutes of encores, including a jamming Pinball Wizard, Daltrey said, "You've all been great. Thanks for bearing with me. Rock 'n' roll — it is about strugglin' and diggin' in and getting' to the finish line, isn't it?"
The Pretenders opened with a tight set of muscular jingle-jangle that included Brass in Pocket, Back on the Chain Gang, My City Was Gone, Middle of the Road, Night in My Veins and other exquisite rock songs.
Chrissie Hynde, a 55-year-old Akron native, silkily strutted across the stage as if she owned it and seemed to genuinely enjoy herself. Her voice sounded as it did during the late '70s when she started the band — like one of the strongest, most expressive instruments in rock.