MASHANTUCKET, CONN. - The Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey is out on a rare solo tour dubbed "Use It or Lose It," a reference to the need for keeping his 65-year-old voice in top-notch shape. Based on his performance at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Saturday, he's got his work cut out for him, though he seems to be slowly rebounding from a bad cold that reportedly caused him a ton of vocal problems during a show in Cleveland earlier in the week. Daltrey talked about his voice a lot on Saturday, too much frankly, bringing more attention to the fact that he wasn't at the top of his game. But while the raspiness limited him somewhat, especially late in his hour and 40 minute set, it wasn't as bad as say, seeing Bob Dylan on just about any night during the past five or six years.
In fact, there were moments Saturday when Daltrey sang some songs better than he has on recent Who tours, particularly the classic "Behind Blue Eyes," which came early in the show. He was slightly ragged at that point but he hit all the notes, in contrast to Who shows where he's cracked bigtime while trying to reach the upper octave in that particular song. Overall, Daltrey was extremely engaging Saturday, apparently delighted with the more intimate confines of the theater and the tour, as opposed to the huge arenas favored by the Who. He told some very amusing tales between songs, had a strong five-member band behind him and turned in a set list that featured Who masterpieces, some genuine rarities, a few covers and a handful of extremely obscure songs. It was a nice mix, leaving one to wish that Daltrey had most of the say in choosing the set lists for the Who when they go on tour.
But that's apparently a job for Pete Townshend, who's currently at home working on demos for the Who's next recording, tentatively titled "Floss." However Daltrey did have Townshend's brother Simon beside him on rhythm guitar, mandolin and vocals Saturday, and when Simon sang lead, as in a brilliant version of "Going Mobile," his voice sounded extremely similar to that of his brother.
The early part of the night started strong with sturdy takes of "Who Are You," and the Who's playfully raunchy late 1960s hit "Pictures of Lily," then onto "Tattoo," which was prefaced by some amusing Daltrey musings about what today's tattoos are going to look like on folks when they're 75-years-old.
After "Days of Light" he turned in stellar renditions of a couple of really obscure cuts: "Freedom Ride" - originally sung by Springfield's own Taj Mahal - and "Gimme a Stone," both from the decade-old, multi-artist concept album "Largo," which is loosely based on Dvorak's "New World" Symphony.
The latter part of the performance included crowd favorites like a brief, "My Generation," Daltrey's solo song "Who's Gonna Walk on Water?" the double-entendre filled "Squeeze Box," and a drum thrashing "I Can See For Miles." In trademark fashion Daltrey was spinning his microphone via its cable on an extended and blistering "Young Man Blues," and by "Baba O'Riley" had his shirt unbuttoned to reveal a physique that would have looked impressive on a guy half his age. The voice may be aging but the six-pack abs are still Woodstock-worthy.
There were pacing problems towards the end, however, as Daltrey did wind down the night in loose fashion. While that's what he wants on this tour, it was just too loose on a mediocre Johnny Cash medley that included "I Got Stripes" and "Ring of Fire," and Daltrey struggled - as many singers do - trying to match Cash's low notes. The "Who by Numbers" rarity "Blue Red and Grey" featured Daltrey on ukulele, before he closed the night with the ballad "Without Your Love" from the soundtrack to "McVicar."
The psychedelic rockin' quartet Paper Zoo opened the show to a very mixed audience response.