Entertainment

Daltrey reigns o’er Niagara Falls

John Law

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

Fans of The Who flocked to the Niagara Fallsview Casino Monday night as frontman Roger Daltrey played the first of two solo shows. PHOTO: Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Fans of The Who flocked to the Niagara Fallsview Casino Monday night as frontman Roger Daltrey played the first of two solo shows. PHOTO: Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

As any longtime Who fan will tell you, the best concerts were always the ones that felt like they could fall apart at any second. A blown amp. A destroyed drum kit. At their peak, The Who brought a volcanic energy to the stage that made every show unruly and unpredictable.

So it was amusing — and a bit old school — when an angry Roger Daltrey abruptly halted the show at Fallsview Casino Monday night. He had been battling his ear piece all night, and it finally boiled over during the crescendo of Baba O’Riley. Not content to muff the ending, he barked orders to someone off stage while the band stood frozen.

“We’ll start it again!,” he yelled, and his anger fueled an even better Baba as the crowd roared in approval.

But the technical gaffes weren’t over yet. Just before the last song of the night, Daltrey’s keyboard player frantically tried getting his attention: All the instruments were suddenly without power.

“Everything’s gone off…they didn’t pay the electricity bill,” he joked. “I have to bid you goodnight. We can’t do any more.”

And then, as if delivered by a magic bus, there was power. Daltrey played a new ballad, Always Heading Home, and everyone headed home happy.

For every jaded fan tired of the polished, corporate-sounding Who of the past 30 years, it was a nice throwback. Screw-ups that made an intimate show feel more genuine, less scripted. If you’ve only seen Daltrey through binoculars at a stadium, seeing the 73-year-old icon this loose, and this close, may have been worth the $200 ticket.

The night’s off-the-cuff vibe started as Daltrey took the stage with tea cup in hand. “Good evening…who cares if it’s a Monday night?” He launched into the Tommy Overture, followed by a trio of Who classics — Pinball Wizard (complete with first mic swing), I Can See For Miles and Behind Blue Eyes. All delivered with crispness and energy from a band which includes Pete Townshend’s brother Simon.

From there, Daltrey delivered what he promised at the start of the night: Choice solo stuff and nuggets The Who had never performed on stage before, including Athena and — amazingly enough — Going Mobile off of Who’s Next (“I don’t know why Pete wouldn’t sing this song on the road.”)

Between the songs and the on-stage banter, Townshend was a presence all night. Daltrey says he did his first solo album in 1973 for something to do while Townshend was busy writing Quadrophenia — “I don’t do well sitting on my ass” — and introduced Dreaming From the Waist as a song about a midlife crisis, “which Pete seemed to have at 31 years old.”

In fact, Daltrey’s brief solo tour, which continues with a second Fallsview show Wednesday night, is basically a tune-up for the next (and likely last) Who tour. “If Pete wants to tour next year, I’ve got to keep the voice working,” he said.

But stadiums and arenas don’t offer what Fallsview could Monday night. Much like Steven Tyler’s show last year, it was a chance for a rock icon to relax a bit and mingle with fans in a cozy, 1,500-seat venue. It was perfectly suited for Daltrey’s storytelling and English charm between songs, which ravenous Who fans ate up.

He said Days of Light, off his 1992 solo album Rocks in the Head, was inspired by his four years as a sheet metal worker, which he quit to join a rock band (“Thank God that worked out!”). As for The Who’s notorious reputation for hotel room destruction, he said “they deserved smashing up because they were in desperate need of renovation.”

Among the biggest surprises is what Daltrey didn’t play — The Who’s trademark anthem Won’t Get Fooled Again. A strange omission, but then again, try doing that scream at 73. Even Daltrey has his limits.

It was a celebration with a melancholic note. Daltrey covered Blueberry Hill in honour of Fats Domino, who died Oct. 24, and with the sting of Tom Petty’s passing still fresh, this was a reminder to see these giants from rock’s golden era while we still can.

As Daltrey sang Monday — twice — “Let’s get together, before we get much older.”

jlaw@postmedia.com

Set list:

 

  1. Tommy Overture
  2. Pinball Wizard
  3. I Can See For Miles
  4. Behind Blue Eyes
  5. Giving It All Away
  6. Another Tricky Day
  7. Athena
  8. Who Are You
  9. Days of Light
  10. Going Mobile
  11. How Many Friends
  12. It’s Not Enough
  13. Blueberry Hill
  14. Dreaming From the Waist
  15. Without Your love
  16. Naked Eye
  17. Summertime Blues
  18. Baba O’Riley
  19. Young Man’s Blues
  20. Always Heading Home 


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