A cynic could easily have dispatched Roger Daltrey's current tour to the refuse bin punnily marked "Who cares?" with little thought and even less guilt without even having seen it.
Let's face it, the very idea of the 67-year-old frontman for legendary rockers The Who performing the somewhat dated - generously and respectfully so described - rock opera in its entirety for the first time more than four decades after its debut has a whiff of desperation about it. More so when you take into account that he's doing so without guitarist Pete Townshend, who wrote most of the album â€” which later became a film with Daltrey in the lead role of the deaf, dumb and blind hero of the tale â€” and is instead being accompanied by a band that includes the windmilling Townshend's baby brother Simon.
Perhaps that's why the current tour has been plagued by low attendance and even cancellations, including the final dates of the North American swing that would have seen them wrapping things up in Saskatoon and Winnipeg later this week. And Sunday night's closer at the Saddledome, itself, was a poorly populated affair, with the cavernous Dome dotted with about 3,000 generously counted fans.
Apparently, the cynics have spoken.
And that's a pity. Because while the show was by no means a definitive performance of the work nor the true spectacle Tommy probably deserves, it was part of a solidly entertaining, incredibly well performed evening of some of rock's most well known numbers by a still enigmatic, still powerful frontman. Over the course of the two-hours plus set, which was split into the album and then a sampling of some of The Who's greatest hits and covers, there was very little to quibble with and a great deal to enjoy, no matter how you entered.
It begins with the material, which, for the first half, delivered exceptional versions of Tommy classics such as 1921, The Acid Queen, Tommy Can You Hear Me? and, of course, Pinball Wizard, a definite highlight of the night. The songs themselves, the remarkable sound, and the endless and eye-popping parade of animated images on a screen above the stage made some of the record's more forgettable fare easier to digest, and the opening hour rarely drag.
As for the best of and odds 'n' sods, well, here there were no duds and nothing that required any sweeteners to swallow, and offered some great versions of tracks, including The Kids Are Alright, a gorgeous version of Behind Blue Eyes, Daltrey's upbeat and snappy solo song Days of Light, early Who single Pictures of Lily, a Johnny Cash medley and, naturally, a rocking rendition of Who Are You.
True, every so often his voice showed its limitations and the effects of ongoing throat issues, as it did during parts of album closer We're Not Gonna Take It and second set opener I Can See For Miles. But for the most part, it was strong, it was sure and it was very much the instrument the rock world has come to cherish, enshrining it, deservedly in the Hall of Fame. And, as a performer, he's still very much got it, swinging his mic effortlessly, like a loop of licorice, and once Tommy had been put to bed, offering some engaging, mainly good-natured between-song banter â€” the most notable exception being a pointed anti-politico diatribe prior to Give Me a Stone.
And the five-piece backup band he assembled for the tour made him look that much better; themselves, incredibly talented, tight and proficient, with Townshend shining brightly throughout the night and doing nothing to lessen the good family name and tarnish the music of The Who.
In fact, the same could be said for Daltrey and the entire evening itself. Cynics, be damned.
Review; Roger Daltrey performed at the Saddledome on Sunday.