The Who just wrapped up a tour of South America, playing all of the big hits.
So what does lead singer Roger Daltrey do? He puts the band back together (with a couple of notable exceptions), hits the road for a handful of shows and plays everything but the big hits. Sort of a busman's holiday, a chance to sing what he wants to sing and, for once in his life, not do "My Generation."
"I'm warning you, there might be a little train wreck but we don't care," Daltrey said early in Friday night's show at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, one of just five on this tour. "At this stage in life I don't give a â€¦" well, we can't finish that quote here, but you get the picture.
Sure, he played a few of the big hits - "Pinball Wizard," "I Can See For Miles," "Who Are You," "Baba O'Riley" - but mostly he dug deep and played songs he hasn't sung onstage in years. His setlist Friday included just five songs that the Who played in Jacksonville two years ago. That freed him up to try out some obscurities, always knowing he had an ace up his sleeve if he needed it.
But the obscurities were where the fun was. "Giving it All Away" and "Without Your Love" were both solo hits that haven't been done live in years. Daltrey said he put "Athena" into the set "to get the cobwebs off." "It's Not Enough" is a gem from a largely forgotten Who album, 2006's "Endless Wire." "How Many Friends," sounded remarkably fresh when Daltrey pointed out that the lyrics were written in 1975, decades before "antisocial media" became a thing.
He played with most of the band that's been backing the Who for the last few years - minus drummer Zak Starkey and, of course, Pete Townsend, Daltrey's partner in the Who and the guy who wrote most of the songs.
Pete wasn't there, but they had the next best thing. Simon Townsend, Pete's younger brother and a longtime guitarist with the Who, got a rare chance to step out front, and made the most of it. He was like the backup shortstop who gets a chance to start a few games and goes on a tear. He sounds like Pete and he looks like Pete, but he wasn't trying to be Pete - he took the lead vocal on "Going Mobile" and made it his own. He's also a fine player, sharing guitar duties with Frank Simes.
The tour started last week and has just two more dates. The feeling onstage was loose and a little goofy, with Daltrey knocking over and cursing his mike stand and later stopping a song because he'd forgotten to put in his earpiece. He threw in a quick "Blueberry Hill" as tribute to Fats Domino, who died last week.
Daltrey's voice sounded strong, which shouldn't be suprising - he's 73 but the Who has played more than two dozen concerts just this year and he's said part of the reason for this tour was to keep his voice limber. Judging from a ferocious three-song run near the end of the show - "Summertime Blues," "Baba O'Riley" and "Young Man Blues" - he could have spent his vacation on the beach.
Any questions about that were settled on a three-run song late in the show - wo songs from 1969's "Live at Leeds" put any questions to rest. "Summertime Blues" and, especially, "Young Man Blues".