Tom Murray, Freelance
There weren't many notable Halloween costumes at Rexall Place on Saturday night, but at least one stood out.
Roger Daltrey of London, England, managed to pull off a pretty decent impression of The Who's lead singer for a cut-by-cut recreation of the band's classic rock opera Tommy album, even convincing five other musicians to be in on the gag.
For a touch of authenticity, he even had guitarist Pete Townshend's younger brother, Simon, sub in as a musical foil; really, how much further could you go?
Except that it wasn't a gag. Much as it may have seemed like just another bid for nostalgia from an aging rocker, Saturday night's recreation of the 42-year-old double album was an impressive feat. The strangest part of it all is that Tommy isn't even necessarily the band's best album; much of it is filler, parts of it are eminently shippable, at least on record. That Daltrey and his band were able to hold the crowd's attention for just over an hour, with only a few recognizable cuts (Acid Queen, Tommy Can You Hear Me, Pinball Wizard, a few others) scattered throughout was testament to their musical prowess.
Most surprising were the songs you might have forgotten - Smash the Mirror, Sensation, We're Not Going to Take It, all of which can slip by you on record (and likely slipped through a few Who set lists) but were standouts this particular night, the band locking in and shaking these tunes for all they were worth.
The five-piece that Daltrey selected for the task were well up to it. Townshend approximated his brother both physically and vocally, taking the higher vocal parts throughout. Drummer John Devours had the toughest job, somehow finding a way to channel the anarchic spirit of Keith Moon while still holding together the entire enterprise. Daltrey was, satisfyingly, exactly as you would have remembered him, twirling his microphone or banging a couple of tambourines together. While vocally slightly shaky at points, he still nailed it, showing remarkable chops for a man who can now collect senior's pension back home in Britain.
A mere few thousand made it out to see the recreation, which was too bad, given the spirit of the group.
After running through Tommy, Daltrey took a few minutes to speak with the crowd before strapping on an acoustic and taking the band through a number of Who hits - starting with I Can See For Miles, The Kids Are Alright, Who Are You into a pile of deep catalogue cuts.
It might not have been The Who that you wish you could see, but as a stand in for the original they were a fine substitute.