The Who’s ‘Tommy’ Orchestral
Need further proof that Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are locked in a strange professional marriage? Well, after countless new tours as, effectively, The Two, Rog takes the summer off and tours one of Pete’s most personal set of ‘work stories’ all on his own. Well, all on his own AND a giant orchestra.
I remember hearing Roger Daltrey interviewed in the lead up to this – he was boasting of being in fantastic voice (which is true, his last couple of solo releases and the recent Who recordings show a lead vocalist re-born) and was saying he aimed to take Tommy on the road as a full symphonic show.
I even signed up for the early 90s Broadway recording and the late-80s Who reunion double album that featured a giant Tommy medley.
From there I moved on to almost anything else from The Who, moved away completely and then came back to anything other than Tommy. It’s overwrought and overdone and/or I wiped myself out to it. So just when I was sure I never needed to hear it again, nor any other iteration along comes Roger Daltry’s symphonic Tommy – and fuck it’s good!
Yes, The Ox and Moon the Loon were crucial to anything by The Who and their contributions to Tommy can hook you on the music outside of the absurdity and sledgehammer-subtlety of the concept. But there was something in the ambition of Townshend’s “Rock-Opera” that had it sitting, waiting to be orchestrally arranged. This is not the first time that the work has been presented fully orchestrated, but it’s the first time a full live show with the lead singer – that went on to play the titular role in the film – has existed with a full orchestra guiding and supporting.
And it’s really a reminder of the breadth and depth of the work, musically. Of the sonic assault of it. And of Daltrey’s prime ability to step inside the character-work that Pete created and own it.
The tension behind The Who, to me, has always been the mutual resentment between Pete and Rog is as strong, sometimes stronger, than any mutual admiration. Rog is a better singer and was far better looking in the days when that counted. Pete was talented and had ego – they needed each other.
Here Roger isn’t so much stepping away, as stepping back into a character he’s been living with for so long. This is what he does on his downtime? This is his idea of relaxing and taking a break from The Who?
It’s an amazing feat – all part of the “amazing journey” and anyone that was ever a fan of the band, or this work in particular, owes themselves at least one concentrated listen.