It's easy to be cynical about this show. »Roger Daltrey Sings The Music Of Townsend« could've been called »Roger Recycles Pete,« and for the umpteenth time. With The Who's endless farewell aours and commemorations, including one in 1989 which debuted at the Glens Falls Civic Center, and regurgitations of the rock-opera »Tommy,« on stage and screen, Townsend's music industry is now self-sustaining, even as its founder languishes in voluntary obscurity.
The pathetic turnout Tuesday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center - barely 3,000, or about one-tenth of the horde that ransacked the SPAC grounds at The Who's legendary show in 1971- would indicate that the bloom is off the rose. Far from it.
Under a back-lit skyline, a 60-piece orchestra and eight-person rock band, heavy on drums and percussion, opened with an overture that incorporated bits of »Baba O'Reilly« [sic] and »See Me Feel Me.« Daltrey entered to the strains of »You Betta You Bet,« [sic] and to enough noise to fill the SPAC amphitheater several times over and blast any lingering jaundice a mile high.
After three decades of fronting rock music's loudest band, Daltrey's pipes were in surprisingly fine shape. His trademark bellows are still full of resonance. Likewise, his slick work twirling the microphone, especially a diagonal behind the back move with a high degree of difficulty.
The first set of his two-hour show featured a commanding version Of »Baba O'Reilly,« and a lengthy »Tommy« medley.
Daltrey opened set two with a monologue about The Who's early days, that segued into a bluesy take of »Who Are You?« He slowed the pace down for »The Sea Refuses No River,« from Townsend's »Chinese Eyes« album, one of the evening's most effective meldings of orchestra And rock ensemble. Clad in a spiffy blue leather jacket, John Entwistle, The Who's original bassist, made a belated appearance, barking his best known tunes - »My Wife« and »Boris The Spider.« Another medley, this time Townsend's masterful 1973 opera, »Quadrophenia,« and encores Of »I Can See For Miles,« »Behind Blue Eyes« and »Won't Get Fooled Again,« brought the concert to a thundering close.
Were The Who missed? Of course. Simon Townsend's acoustic work on »Pinball Wizard« had none of the presence of his elder brother's seminal riffing. Zak Starkey, son Of Ringo Starr, is no Keith Moon, but no one is, much less Moon in has later boozy years.
That Townsend's lead singer fronts a traveling repertory company dedicated to his music is no dishonor, not with the sustained level of excellence that was displayed Tuesday. After an erratic acting and solo singing career, Daltrey has returned to what he does best, putting the voice to some of the most enduring rock music ever written.