Review: Roger Daltrey sings the Who and more, opening solo US tour

Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

PHILADELPHIA — Octogenarian British Invasion Rock Star Week in Philadelphia began with gusto on Monday, as Roger Daltrey of the Who launched his solo tour at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside.

It was almost as if Daltrey — who fronted a 10-piece band sans Pete Townshend, but including his brother Simon Townshend on guitar — was a day early as opening act for the Rolling Stones, who play Lincoln Financial Field on Tuesday.

It was unclear whether Daltrey was aware of the Stones’ impending performance, but the Who’s old mates came up during the show. Adding a personal touch to the evening, Daltrey answered pre-submitted questions from fans between songs in the sold-out 1,300-seat Keswick Theatre.

One was, “Who’s your favorite rock-and-roll band?” The answer: “There is only one rock-and-roll band: the Rolling Stones.” He went on to marvel at Mick Jagger, who like him is 80, and remains a never-say-die showman.

Daltrey also explained the difference between a band like the Stones and a rock band like the Who. “A rock-and-roll band makes music to make love to. A rock band makes music to fight to.”

On Monday, Daltrey sang plenty of fighting words penned by Townshend, who’s taking time off from Who touring activities while "Tommy" is back on Broadway. Townshend has also been giving contradictory interviews, as has been his wont for 40 years, about whether the band has a future or not.

Meanwhile Daltrey, a former sheet metal worker, soldiers on. Fit and trim, he was in terrific voice from start of finish, with a surprise opening of Townshend’s solo hit “Let My Love Open the Door” and robust encore of John Fogerty’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and a love letter to fans, “Without Your Love,” written by Billy Nicholls, who played mandolin in the band.

Six of 16 songs in the one-hour, 45-minute set were Who songs, plus one more Townshend tune, “After the Fire” — written for Live Aid in 1985 and included on Daltrey’s solo album "Under a Raging Moon."

Daltrey couldn’t leave out crowd-pleasing classic-rock warhorses like “Who Are You,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Baba O’Riley.” Each were reworked slightly, with the synthesizers so effectively integrated into the Who’s 1970s sound replaced by “real musical instruments,” in Daltrey’s words.

That meant Geraint Watkins’ accordion, Steve Weston’s harmonica, and especially the violin played by Kate Jacoby, a Hockessin, Delaware, native and Downingtown School of Rock graduate.

Jacoby, who has been touring with Daltrey and the Who since 2018, expertly delivered the “Baba” solo, bringing the set to a frenzied crescendo, and she also distinguished herself in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”


That masterpiece of “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” cynicism was also the occasion of Daltrey’s one attempt at his trademark mic twirl-and-catch, which he pulled off seamlessly.

Before that song he announced that he had retired the cathartic scream that left him without a voice too many times, so he was counting on the audience to step up in his stead. They did, and made a mighty roar.

Other choice song selections: “Squeeze Box” put the accordion to good use, and “The Kids are Alright” was an optimistic jolt of mid-’60s innocence. Taj Mahal’s “Freedom Ride” and a touching “Going Back Home” from a 2014 Daltrey album with Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, who died in 2022, drew from the blues Daltrey grew up on.

It sounded great in the room, but Daltrey was plagued by first-night-on-tour problems with his onstage monitors. He frequently gestured mid-song to an offstage technician, explaining that either he couldn’t hear himself at all, or it was suddenly too loud.

He was irritated, but forgiving, admitting that being his new sound man might not be the easiest job. “He doesn’t get my hand signals; he doesn’t know how deaf I am.” For his troubles, the tech got a song dedicated to him: “Another Tricky Day.”

One crumpled piece of paper pulled from Daltrey’s pocket asked: “Any fond memories of Philadelphia?”

“They’re all fond,” said Daltrey, who has played benefit shows for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia through Teen Cancer America, which he called “the Who’s pet charity.”

He shouted out the Spectrum, where the band played frequently in the 1970s, and further pleased the partisan crowd by dissing New York, calling Madison Square Garden a “s—hole.”

“Philadelphia was always a great city for the Who,” he said, referring to a long history that stretches back to the band playing the original Electric Factory at 22nd and Arch in 1969.

The impression that the city made on him in that era can be heard on "Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970," on which he introduces a song called “Water” by saying “in Philadelphia, they call it 'wooder.'”

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