Talking Movies

August 2, 2011

Roger Daltrey @ the Park

Roger Daltrey was always bound to be highlight of the @thePark series of concerts this summer and so it proved last Tuesday.

The recession appears to be biting hard as Marlay Park remained open during the concert; which was restricted to half the size of previous events, and under canvass in a marquee tent rather than in the open air in front of Marlay House. Daltrey is back on the road as a solo artist owing to Pete Townshend’s increasing hearing difficulties, and, back-dropped by original animations from London art-school students, he’s playing all of The Who’s seminal 1969 rock-opera Tommy. Daltrey started at the staggeringly early time of 8:17pm, catching most of the crowd off-guard, leading to a stampede into the tent. This intimate venue easily allowed me to get the closest to the stage I’ve been since seeing Frank Black in the Temple Bar Music Centre in 2003.

Daltrey stated he needed to warm up his voice after getting frozen at an open-air gig in Norfolk the day before and so belted out Who classics ‘I Can See For Miles’, ‘Pictures of Lilly’ and ‘Tattoo’, as well as his collaboration with The Chieftains, before the main event. Daltrey’s onstage introduction dismissed previous attempts by The Who to perform Tommy as ‘circus versions’ – played too fast, lacking the proper instruments, and ignoring the play of various voices. Here then was Tommy as it was meant to be performed, with guitarist Simon Townshend taking over vocal duties on a number of songs to flesh out the fictional universe. Daltrey meanwhile brought out the different characters in his array of songs, with his wonderfully sinister vocals when assuming the role of Uncle Ernie a highlight; especially his chilling delivery of the one word ‘Welcome…’ at the end of ‘Tommy’s Holiday Camp’. A huge cheer greeted the album’s sing-along track, ‘Pinball Wizard’, but the whole rendition was a triumph. The semi-abstract visuals banished all memory of Ken Russell’s filmic vision, while the amazing variety, and play of light and dark, in Townshend’s music and lyrics has never been more dazzlingly displayed. The clear anticipations of Led Zeppelin and Bowie hits to be heard in some songs demonstrated the influence of this work.

After Tommy Daltrey’s band launched into some playful interpretations of the obligatory Who classics including ‘Who Are You?’ ‘My Generation’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, and ‘The Kids Are Alright’. A highlight was a thrilling ‘Baba O’Riley’ ending with Daltrey himself playing the run-away violin finale part on harmonica. They continued with an affectionate Johnny Cash medley, and some extended blues jams, and the theme song ‘Without Your Love’ from Daltrey’s film McVicar, before appropriately ending with just Daltrey playing the Who rarity ‘Red, Blue and Grey’ on the ukulele. Tommy is a dark album but this was a luminous performance… Daltrey left the stage at 10:53pm, having played for a whopping 2 hours 36 minutes.

Not bad for a 67 year old. And he still swings a mean microphone too…

4/5

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