Jordan Brandes / Lyle A. Waisman
True legends are hard to come by these days. Pop culture has created a lot of icons but few have the lasting power that comes with legendary status. Roger Daltrey is undoubtedly one of those living rock nâ€™ roll legends and has become an icon to entire generations of music fans. When it was announced Daltrey was coming to Chicago I knew it was an opportunity not to be missed but I never expected a show as unique as the one he put on at the House of Blues. Daltrey did not just come on stage and play some of the best songs of his career; he gave you an appreciation for why they were so great in the first place.
Clocking in at nearly two hours, without breaks, Daltrey gave the audience a truly amazing show. It should be noted that time does have a sense of irony. Many of the audience members, many of whom were around to see The Who perform live during the British Invasion, seemed to be up past their bedtime. They may have seen the band in their prime but the meaning of many of the old Who songs were lost on the yuppie crowd. Daltrey carefully avoided playing â€œMy Generationâ€ although he did allow himself the biggest smirk during â€œThe Young Man Blues.â€
There were moments where it seemed more like watching a play than a concert. Daltrey prefaced each song with an anecdote that gave the audience an inside track into the mind of the performers while they were writing the song. â€œI stopped being able to play this song with The Who,â€ Daltrey said, â€œbecause sometime in the early 70s John Entwistleâ€™s voice suddenly changed. But now that I have this new band weâ€™re able to get back to those three-part harmonies Iâ€™ve been wanting to play for years.â€ With that he burst into a roaring rendition of â€œPictures of Lillyâ€ a song rarely played even now.
Daltrey was joined on stage by a number of very talented musicians. The biggest surprise of the night came when he introduced his guitar player as none other than Simon Townshend. Townshend is the brother of original Who guitarist Pete Townshend and an amazing musicians in his own right. This became clear during a mind-blowing rendition of â€œGoing Mobileâ€ in which Townshend played both guitar and vocals. If you closed your eyes it sounded just like The Who must of in their heyday.
The highlight of the night came when Daltrey kicked up the intensity by playing â€œBaba Oâ€™Riley.â€ Up until that point the audience has remained sort of inert, listening but not participating. That all changed as the first chords of the song started to play. The song, one of my personal favorites, has the ability to just tap into a primal energy that desperately needed to come out at the concert.
Daltrey put on a show that will be remembered for years to come. Although the House of Blues is not exactly a small venue, it is by The Who whom has set the standards for stadium concerts. The rather small venue provided a unique opportunity to really get close to the icon. Chances like that do not happen often. Throughout the night there was some genuine banter between audience and performer, those close enough even got to shake his hand at the end of the night.
With the creative freedom to get comfortable with the crowd Daltrey took the opportunity to play material he might not otherwise perform. As it turns out this includes country music. His final song of the night was a sing-a-long cover of â€œRing of Fireâ€ originally performed by Johnny Cash. The result was a little weird at first but really brought the crowd together at the end.
Daltrey has been avoiding retirement for years and admits that if he doesnâ€™t keep himself performing he will lose his gift. Although there were moments where he seemed to channel his younger years it is clear that he has gotten old. Such is life, he has perfected his craft into a masterful performance. It is unclear how many more tours Daltrey has in him. He seems to start one up whenever he gets restless. See him while the chance is still out there. It may not be as intense as other concerts but you will never forget it.