August 10, 2013
Costa Mesa, CA
Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ron Lyon
The last time I saw Roger Daltrey twice in one year was in the summer of 1980 when the Who swung through Los Angeles for multiple nights at both the Forum and the Sports Arena. I caught a show at each venue. This year, my two Roger Daltrey encounters took place in Orange County. At the end of January, I saw the Who perform Quadrophenia. The second time was more of a pleasant surprise — for fans and, likely for the singer himself.
Robby Kreiger and Ray Manzarek were originally scheduled to perform at the Pacific Amphitheatre on this night, but the Doors keyboardist passed away on May 20. You’d think after wrapping the Quadrophenia tour in July that Daltrey, never one for tabloid fodder or celebrity debauchery, would simply disappear from the public eye. But out of nowhere, he was suddenly on the bill and taking the opportunity to raise funds for Teen Cancer America, a charity for helping teens and young adults with cancer.
With Daltrey working at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas and half the members of his No Plan B touring band based in California, it probably wasn’t too much of a chore to round up the lads (all of whom, aside from bassist Jamie Hunting, were part of the Who’s touring band) and throw a few songs together. One guess as to what songs they performed.
Before that happened, there was a short set from the Steve Roth Band, a three-piece subsisting on an acoustic guitar, keys and a single snare drum. For a low-key, three-song set, the young trio were a reasonably cool and collected opener, highlighting their set with Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me,” a song a few in the crowd may have recognized from The Big Lebowski.
The upper reaches of the amphitheater were still unoccupied by the time Daltrey walked on stage, just before nine, for his very first solo performance in Orange County. Opening with “I Can See For Miles,” the pace was set and it was as if the Who were on fire without Pete Townshend’s exuberant windmills, of course. “Pictures Of Lily,” “The Kids Are Alright” and “The Seeker” followed and the mood elevated.
Handling guitar duties equally as heavy, intense and brazen were Simon Townshend and Frank Simes. Throughout the night, the two exchanged leads on various songs — Simes took it for a ride on “The Seeker”; Townshend advanced the charge and also sang the vocal on “Goin’ Mobile,” a classic Who’s Next cut his brother originally sang. Daltrey joined in on the harmonica and Scott Devours attacked his drums in a Moonie-like fervor. Hearing this and others like “Behind Blue Eyes” and especially the ferocious “Young Man Blues,” really took you back to the early 70s when the original fearsome foursome of Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle and Moon ruled the concert stage without contenders.
Of the non-Who songs, Daltrey and company picked out a few they had done on their previous 2011 Tommy tour. There was “Days Of Light,” a song the singer co-wrote and recorded on his 1992 solo album, Rocks In The Head. They also tackled a country-blues tune written by Levon Helm called “Gimme A Stone” that had Townshend madly plucking away at the mandolin while the singer calmly strummed an acoustic and lead the gospel-like chorus. Later in the show, Daltrey played a Johnny Cash medley to give his voice a break before diving headlong into “My Generation” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Daltrey was at ease, even jovial at times during the show. Early on, he talked about how he came to fill in for the former Doors, adding that he wanted to “turn something sad into something happy.” And just before finishing up with a two-song encore, he introduced the band and touched on how the proceeds from the concert would help fund a facility in Irvine, California, for teenagers suffering from cancer. ‘We Brits look out for our teenagers,” Daltrey remarked, unapologetically adding, “Better than you.”
The encore featured “Without Your Love,” a song Daltrey recorded for the McVicar soundtrack (based on a film he also starred in), and “Blue, Red and Grey,” another Who track, this one from The Who By Numbers album. Accompanied by keyboardist Loren Gold, the singer struggled with the ukulele and the lyrics, but at this point, no one seemed to mind. Exiting, he giggled like a rock star half his age and vanished behind the curtain. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Roger Daltrey singing Who songs, with or without the Who. And if it’s for a good cause, all the better (you bet).