More than four decades after The Who's Pete Townshend instituted the world's first rock opera, singer Roger Daltrey still keeps the iconic, twisted story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy alive, most recently with his 2011 U.K. and North American tour.
Sunday night, he played to a packed crowd at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield. It was his 18th of a 28-show run on this side of the pond, but he brought the energy and vocal power of a well-rehearsed, fresh opening night to the Front Range.
These days, it takes six musicians to pump out the angst-filled, identity-seeking, high-pitched and deep-souled sounds of The Who of the '60s and '70s, but for years Simon Townshend has been a near-identical stand-in for his older brother (without smashing guitars or sporting the signature windmill - or violently clashing with Daltrey). On this tour, drummer Scott Devours pounds out percussion with the vigor of the late Keith Moon, wild eyes and maniacal tangents aside.
Without a word Sunday night, the band immediately launched into the soundscape of "Tommy," while Daltrey took to the tambourines before he let his voice carry the show. He still channeled the young pinball wizard, playing to the crowd with a laugh and sparkle in his eye, or standing somberly as a deaf, dumb and blind Tommy.
After brilliantly delivering a rousing arrangement of "Tommy" (minus the 10-minute "Underture"), Daltrey continued to transmit powerful shock waves to the standing crowd with Who classics like "Who Are You," a bluesy "Young Man Blues," and lesser-known, though more playful songs like "Goin' Mobile."
"They don't call me Bulldog for nothing," the buff, 67-year-old Daltrey growled between Who favorites.
His voice, which gave him trouble in his "Use It or Lose It" Tour in 2009, held up to the high notes, backed harmonically by Townshend and guitarist Frank Simes. Though he commented how vocal surgery left him allergic to smoke (so bring brownies instead, he said) and ragweed from his last show in Texas, he was harder on himself than most critics would be; he started and stopped two songs, including "Behind Blue Eyes," because of "a frog in my throat," and though his second attempts did sound more authentically Daltrey, the first were hardly shabby.
He rounded out a rocking two-plus hour, no-break show by way of a Johnny Cash medley.
My vocal surgeon told me to end the show singing low notes, Daltrey explained to the crowd, but I told him The Who only does screaming high notes.
And so he paid tribute to one of his favorite musicians and ended - apparently forgetting his surgeon's advice - with "Baba O'Riley" and "Red Blue and Grey."
His love for the audience and performing became even more obvious when he returned for an encore with this ukulele, but after a verse or so, without realizing the audience was singing back to him, he gave up on his failing voice, saying, "Well, I'm not a f-----g robot," and walking off the stage mentioning what goes without saying: He gives everything he's got - and more - each night, because that's what legends are made of.