Friday, March 19, 2010

Roger Daltrey seems genuinely pleased with supporting role

The thought of having only 40 minutes left to perform still seemed to jar Roger Daltrey two songs into his at the BankAtlantic Center in South Florida on Thursday, March 11.

This was even though it was the 10th night of an 11-date tour opening for Eric Clapton. You'd have thought that by then, he'd be a little more used to it.

"I'm getting all these requests from down front here," he told the audience in the 20,000-seat indoor concert venue. "Sadly, I am in a support role tonight, and we only have 50 minutes."

Some of the crowd did not approve.

Daltrey continued, name-dropping with some proper nouns that made everybody cheer. "I have to say that the last time the Who were in a supporting act was in 1964 and we supported the Rolling Stones after we'd just supported the Beatles. And they both did all right, didn't they?"

Within Clapton's 90-minute set that night, he spoke little more than a repeated pair of words after each song: "Thank you!" Slowhand's career-spanning set was enjoyable, with the way he gelled with his touring band including two female backup singers accounting for many high points spread throughout the evening.

Somehow more satisfying, however, was the genuine feeling that Daltrey really loved being out singing, even if it was for less than an hour and even if it was with Simon Townshend, brother of the Who's guitarist, on his right. It seemed like Daltrey didn't even consider this lineup the second best. It seemed, instead, like he didn't want to be doing anything else at that moment.

"This has been a privilege to do this tour. I've really enjoyed it," he said. "It's interesting to know how all those bands -- all these years [that] I've been doing those kind of tours headlining with the Who -- it's interesting to know how the other half live." The crowd enjoyed his remark.

"But it's been really good fun," Daltrey said, segueing into a hint that the Who might return for more tour dates later in the year. He said his solo tour dates have been "keeping me singing so that when the old tart [Pete Townshend] wants to pick up his guitar and get back on the road, which might be later in the year, I've still got a voice to give you."

Judging from the ovation that ensued, this announcement must have come as good news to a large number of audience members who appeared to be keen on attending should the Who play in the United States again. One thing that could jeopardize any potential tour plans is Townshend's physical state. He said in a Rolling Stone report a month ago that if his tinnitus worsened, "We're finished."

From the same Rolling Stone piece:
Neil Young put Townshend in touch with an audiologist who recommended an in-ear monitor that may prevent any further damage. Townshend will give the device a test drive when the Who perform at their only scheduled gig of 2010, a March 30th charity show in London where they'll play Quadrophenia in its entirety.
That gig is coming up, part of the concert series at the Royal Albert Hall benefiting the Teenage Cancer Trust. The series begins Monday night, March 22, with Little Fish opening for Them Crooked Vultures. Discussing that group in an interview recorded last month for an episode of Shaun Keaveny's "Breakfast Show" on BBC Radio 6 Music that aired this morning, Daltrey had high praise for members John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl despite their classification as a "supergroup." He said, speaking generally at first:
"I don't like supergroups. I just don't. For me, it doesn't work. You put a band together where the musicians gel musically. Just because people individually could, musicians don't necessarily make a great band. ... Them Crooked Vultures seems to be working. I haven't seen them live, but from what I have seen ...

"And I love Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones I think is one of the most underrated musicians. Never, ever got enough of the plaudits from Zeppelin because he was such a big part of that sound. ... The musical style that they played, you know, everybody -- Page and Plant seemed to have got all the accolades. But John Paul Jones was a really big part of the band. I really am so pleased with him. And, of course, Dave Grohl is a magical drummer. He's just a rock 'n' roll animal. He's great. He's funny. Lovely, lovely dude."
With Daltrey having slipped Page's name into the conversation, host Shaun Keaveny interjected that he had just interviewed Page just before Christmas. This was for a two-hour special on Led Zeppelin's BBC sessions. It was Keaveny who offered to Daltrey that perhaps he and Page ought to be teaming up.

The only quotation from the interview released a month ago at this time, just after it was recorded, was one from Daltrey that seemed to suggest he wanted to work with Page. It was highly resonant and quoted widely as a hint toward something in the making:
"I'd love to do something, I'd love to do an album with Jimmy Page. He needs a singer to drive him. I'm a great blues singer. I don't sing the blues with the Who, but that's what I used to be before Townshend started writing. I was a great blues singer."
Note that what Daltrey actually said in that last sentence is, "I was a great blues singer," and not "I used to be a great blues singer," as it was originally cited online. The difference is subtle, but "used to be" implies he can't be anymore, whereas "was" implies it happened and could happen again. Daltrey still is a great blues singer. He treated his South Florida audience on March 11 to a fine rendition of Taj Mahal's piece "Freedom Ride," and he introduced "Who Are You" as "a Shepherd's Bush blues song."

Later, when he let smooth-toned Simon Townshend take the mic to sing "Going Mobile," one of his brother's vocal workouts but never attempted live by the Who, Daltrey belted out a fine harmonica part.

Introducing his Taj Mahal cover, Daltrey described his diverse taste in music and sounded as if he was about to echo the statement about wanting to work with Page. He said:
"For a long time, I've been looking for a different kind of music, for something that fuses a lot of my past and the history of the blues and the kind of stuff I used to play when we were in the clubs in London along with Eric, and all those people, the Stones. And we used to do a lot of blues stuff. I used to also like a lot of bluegrass music, country music, and traditional music, but I love rock 'n' roll as well."
Who knows what Daltrey might have up his sleeve for the rest of 2010? Maybe there is something to that nugget of his saying he hopes to work with Page, or maybe it was hyped up by Keaveny. If there is some truth to it, Daltrey's certainly not the only one who fancies being Page's singer.

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