ROGER Daltrey, the famous Who singer, 54, was busy testing his famous pipes this summer on songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd -- and the Who -- as front man of the British Rock Symphony and Choir tour, which finished up Saturday night at Konocti Amphitheatre in Lake County.
Choosing the right songs was key.
»An orchestra can very easily make a good rock song very slushy,« he says. »So it's dependent on the arrangement and the underlying melody of the songs, to what an orchestra can add to it. When the songs are chosen correctly, and the orchestra plays great counter melodies -- rather than just kind of string pads -- the whole thing really does take off.«
Daltrey formed the Who in 1964 with guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. After early hits such as »My Generation« and »I Can't Explain,« the Who began producing more serious work, such as the rock operas »Tommy« (1969) and »Quadrophenia« (1973).
Since Moon's drug-related death in 1978, various drummers have supported the surviving trio. »We lost our clown,« Daltrey says of Moon.
After the Who's 1982 tour, the band called it quits. On those few occasions when the band has reunited, there was always an event to coax them back together (»Tommy« in 1989, »Quadrophenia« in 1996). Daltrey figures he, Townshend and Entwistle would never reunite to tour as »just« the Who.
»The trouble is,« he says, »if you just go on and do your greatest hits, you start to feel that you're really just a parody of yourself. It's a very strange feeling.«
Daltrey criticizes the Rolling Stones for doing just that.
»What the Stones are doing today -- there's part of me that really, really, really admires them for doing what they do. And there's another part of me that can't really quite understand how they could, mentally, do it.«
»Just going on, regurgitating, being a greatest-hits band, would drive me crazy. It's not enough for me. Not that there's anything wrong with the music.«
One aspect of the British Rock Symphony project that appealed to Daltrey was the unusual (for a rock tour, anyway) vocal accompaniment: the New York Housing Project Gospel Choir.
»Don't you think it's a cool thing to take a housing project choir on the road?« Daltrey asks. »A lot of these people probably haven't been outside of New York, I shouldn't imagine. And now they're getting the chance to sing all around America.«
»It's ... a wonderful, spiritual tour in that sense, a very soul-based show. Very black, I think, which is great. The feel of it will be very much like Afro-American music and gospel. It's that kind of rock 'n' roll -- very funky.«