How do you think he does it?
Roger Daltrey looked as if he were setting himself up for a fall. Sunday's show at the Mann Music Center was billed as a tribute to his former bandmate. And at first glance, Daltrey Sings Townshend: A Celebration of the Music of The Who, appeared to be an act of hubris: An aging rock god cashing in on his past and trading on Pete Townshend's recent Broadway success with Tommy.
So did Daltrey acquit himself? You better, you bet.
For 2 1/2 hours, the 50-year-old singer effortlessly staked his claim on a parade of muscular Who favorites.
It could have been called Virtual Who. On Daltrey's left was Simon Townshend - with all the flamboyant mannerisms of his older brother Pete. And on his right was The Who's bassist and eminence grise, John Entwistle, for the entire second act.
Daltrey looked athletic, with a vigor that would put any 20-year-old Lollapaloozer to shame.
His voice a tad ragged with the remnants of a cold, Daltrey nevertheless packed plenty of vocal power. With a 60-piece orchestra and an eight-piece band behind him, Daltrey roared. Roared through the band's singles, early and late (»I Can See for Miles,« »Who Are You,« »Baba O'Riley«).
He roared through an extended suite of songs from Tommy (»Amazing Journey,« »Pinball Wizard,« »I'm Free,« and »Listening to You/See Me Feel Me«). And he roared passionately through a 30-minute collection from Quadrophenia (»The Real Me,« »I'm One,« a blazingly lusty »Doctor Jimmy,« »5:15,« and »Cut My Hair«).
Just as it seemed his voice would give out, he turned his microphone toward the audience. The orchestra's brass heralded the intro to »Love Reign O'er Me« and the crowd took the first few choruses of the song. Daltrey looked ecstatic, his blue eyes on the verge of tears. He'd made his connection. He was keeping the music alive.
The show was billed as a tribute to Pete Townshend. »I'll keep doing it as long as I can,« Daltrey said mid-set. But what the near-sold-out crowd saw and heard was something else: The Triumph of Roger Daltrey.