Monday, August 12, 2013

Roger Daltrey concert review: Costa Mesa, Calif.

A version of my review originally appeared at Photos by Kelly Swift

Unshackled from the constraints of a regular tour by the Who and without an album to spotlight, Roger Daltrey's Costa Mesa benefit concert Saturday night promised something special. Instead it was a mixed bag.

The legendary British singer recently finished another Quadrophenia world tour (including a January stop at Honda Center).

This was an unusual one-off gig, and a rarity at that: Daltrey's Pacific Amphitheatre debut marked his second-ever show at a fair.

It came about after an original booking featuring Ray Manzarek was canceled in light of the Doors keyboardist's death in May from cancer.

Proceeds went to the nonprofit Teen Cancer America, a relatively new offshoot of the Who Cares' U.K.-based Teen Cancer Trust, which started in 1990 with the goal of providing age-appropriate hospital treatment and support for teenagers and young adults suffering from the disease.

The annual charity benefits at London's Royal Albert Hall are star-studded affairs, often ending up on television and DVD. The first U.S. facility was opened at UCLA Medical Center in 2012, and this O.C. event's tally will be earmarked for another in Irvine.

Before starting the 110-minute Pacific show, Daltrey mentioned TCA and alluded to Manzarek. "Let's turn something sad into something positive," he said, "and have a bloody good time."

Those who attended definitely did, though the terrace section was barely half-full. A major chunk of the set was similar to Daltrey's 2009 solo stop at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A., though bafflingly, as it was then, most of his own catalog was dismissed. Fifteen of 19 songs played were Who staples.

Granted, Daltrey, 69, surely felt obligated to perform some Who material to satisfy casual fans and the curious. Yet diehard enthusiasts probably would have preferred to see him use this rare opportunity to be more adventurous, possible rework some classic arrangements.

The closest came via an acoustic guitar intro on "Who Are You," introduced as a "blues song that Pete Townshend added synths to and made a masterpiece."

Additional selections from primo solo efforts like the McVicar soundtrack and 1992's Rocks in the Head (we got one each here) or anything off 1985's stellar Under a Raging Moon would have been preferable. Of the latter, the singer once remarked: "That was the album I really wanted to make ... it got great airplay and sold an awful lot." So why continually ignore it?

Launching with "I Can See for Miles," a cantankerous Daltrey and his regular five-piece band finally hit their stride four songs in, amid "Pictures of Lily," boosted by harmonies from guitarist and backing vocalist Simon Townshend (Pete's brother and a longtime touring member of the Who).

The same held true with the wonderful group vocals on folk-leaning standout "Days of Light."

There was a sense Daltrey left too many details to others; he scoffed at parts of the set list, veering off it and introducing the wrong song at one point. A non-functioning microphone and stand that wouldn't adjust properly also bewildered him.

Vocally, he was adequate, but could barely be heard above more raucous Who tunes; a snide remark about the Pacific's decibel limit came late in the evening.

"Behind Blue Eyes" was sarcastically introduced as "a Limp Bizkit cover, for those of you over 14," but went down a storm. Daltrey resumed his trademark microphone lasso moves during "Pinball Wizard." Elsewhere, the Brit admitted the early influence of Johnny Cash before a meandering Man in Black medley.

Among the highlights were a sizzling take on Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues," the subtle 1980 ballad "Without Your Love" and a Simon-sung rendition of "Going Mobile," aided by Daltrey on harmonica. And as the clock reached 10:30, the headliner said "sod the curfew" and grabbed a mandolin for the acoustic "Blue, Red and Grey." 

Set list: Roger Daltrey at Pacific Amphitheatre
I Can See for Miles / The Kids Are Alright / The Seeker / Pictures of Lily / Days of Light / Gimme a Stone (Levon Helm cover) / Going Mobile / Behind Blue Eyes / Squeeze Box / Pinball Wizard / Who Are You / You Better, You Bet / Young Man Blues / Baba O'Riley / Johnny Cash medley: I Got Stripes > Folsom Prison Blues > Ring of Fire / My Generation / Won't Get Fooled Again / Without Your Love / Blue, Red and Grey

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best show this year at the Orange County Fair...The B 52's and Joan Jett came close but they don't have the classic songbook of "The Who". 15 of the 19 songs played were huge Who hits.