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The Who's Roger Daltrey Dazzles With 'Tommy'


Roger DaltreyIn a two-and-a-half-hour performance that’s sure to impress, Roger Daltrey brings the iconic, groundbreaking rock opera Tommy to the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 21. The tour is unique in that Tommy has never been performed song-sequentially in its entirety by The Who. Daltrey was waved off on this journey by an approving Pete Townshend, who said he “will be there in spirit” and Daltrey has his “complete and most loving support.”

In the 43 years since he dazzled onlookers with his pinball skills, Tommy no doubt would’ve become head Nintendo honcho and, by now, been in recliner-retirement mode, remote in hand. But not so the singer who gave him life. At 67, Daltrey hasn’t stopped twirling the mic and shaking that tambourine quite yet. In fact, he’s said that it’s vital for him to keep singing, or lose the power in those pipes.

These days, Earl Grey tea couples with the “Acid Queen” as the eternally youthful Rog saunters onstage, mug in hand, with some lighthearted banter and a few Who warm-up tunes—1960s gems “Pictures of Lily” and “I Can See for Miles.” After a smidgen of congenial chatter, it’s all business as the band launches into the “Overture” strains of Tommy, accompanied by visuals on a giant backdrop screen.

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The tight five-piece band includes Scott Devours (drums), Jon Button (bass), Loren Gold (keyboards), and Frank Simes (guitar). Also on guitar: He looks like a Townshend, and he acts like one, too. Because he is. Pete’s younger brother, Simon, does a bang-up job of thrashing around and singing the Pete parts. Expect to be mesmerized, to jump up out of your seat, to sing along. The performance of Tommy is truly a communally enjoyed experience.

And the song list is far from over. The second half of the show brings some interesting selections—both Who and not Who—like the age-barrier transcendent “My Generation,” a brawling “Young Man Blues,” the blood-boiling “Baba O’Riley,” a solo-career nugget from McVicar, and … a Johnny Cash medley?! Listen for “Blue, Red and Grey” as a solo encore, uke in hand.

The tour officially starts mid-September and runs through early November, although a few practice runs have been presented already in the UK.

When: Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave., Philadelphia.
Tickets: $29.50-$125. Visit manncenter.org or the Mann box office.

» More Concert Previews by Debbi Calton

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