"I have got to sing" says Who frontman Roger Daltrey as he heads to Brighton and Portsmouth
The Who will be hitting America in the spring next year.
But before that we get Who frontman Roger Daltrey on the road with his Who Was I? show, at venues including Brighton and Portsmouth this autumn – a special evening of Who classics, rarities, solo hits and fan Q&A.
And the reason?
“I have got to sing,” he says. As simple as that.
“I have done a few shows during the breaks between the lockdowns for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and I have done a few car festivals. I haven’t done nothing, but I need to be singing more the age I am. The vocal cords are muscles. You have got to use them. The Who had been booked to go out next spring, but that hiatus was going to be too much.”
Hence the Who Was I? tour, a great way to end a difficult year.
“It has been pretty awful for everybody really, but I have been blessed. I live on a farm and the rhythm of the land doesn’t change for anything, not even for a pandemic. I have been so lucky compared to some people, people living with two kids in a high-rise flat in a tower block with the idea of home-schooling. If we are going to applaud people, we should also be applauding people in situations like that.”
When the pandemic struck, Roger was just lining up a week of sold-out concerts at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust: “We had a complete week fully sold out. We are hoping to be back next year. I don’t think things are going to change.
“It’s time (to get back out there). Totally time. I am concerned about the industry.
“It’s important to get our road crew working again. Without these guys the halls would go silent.
“It’s also clear that live music is an important part of all our lives, something to free us from the groundhog days that life has become. This pandemic has brought home to me what an important part of me singing is and it’s made me determined to get back onstage asap.
“On this tour I want to take the audience on a musical journey through my career as a singer with a show of songs and sounds that explores and surprises. I look forward to having closer contact with my audience than festivals and arenas allow, leaving time to chat.”
The show will comprise a mix of music and conversation, built around Roger’s musical journey, and encompasses nearly every style imaginable – including blues, rock, country, soul and metal.
During the evening he will dig into his back catalogue pulling from his nine solo albums, his album with Wilko Johnson and even reinterpreting a few Who classics and rarities.
Performing has always been the key for Roger: “The Who have always been a live band. Who’s Next was an album that we played live for a long time before we recorded it. Every other album was created in the studio, and we never quite captured that live feel.”
Even so, The Who story has been an astonishing record of success down the decades.
“I think you have to put a lot of that down to the quality of Pete Townshend’s song-writing and musicianship. The Who are an acquired taste. It’s not the kind of pop music that you like at a party. It is incredibly demanding to listen to. It is music that demands that you focus on the lyrics, that you feel it.”
The joy is that it is always gathering new audiences: “We have audiences now that could be 80 or they could be eight. You have got people now bringing their grandchildren to see The Who, and I have always thought wouldn’t it be great if rock music could do that across the generations.”
It will certainly do so on the latest tour, a chance to enjoy Roger’s music in a rather more intimate way.
“Most of our career we have played huge arenas, huge stadiums, whether it is 25,000 or even half a million at Woodstock and 600,000 on the Isle of Wight. But really it has never been important how many. You play the same whether it is ten people or ten million people. It doesn’t change anything.
“But what this gives me is a change to explore my solo career a bit more. That’s why I have called it Who Was I? There is so much of my solo career that I used to do as a hobby and was always very flippant about. My main thing was always being the singer in The Who. There was a huge part of my solo career that I have completely washed over. I didn’t want to be like Rod Stewart and The Faces. I just wanted to be part of The Who.”
But the opportunity is there now, some different songs to revive, some different sounds and also some Who songs done in different ways.
So how will he make the choices?
“I won’t choose anything definitely until we get to the rehearsal studios. That’s when we will really work on it. You just know instinctively and the songs will change every night anyway, I am sure.”
The tour kicks off in November including a date at the Brighton Centre on Wednesday, November 17 before concluding with Portsmouth Guildhall on Wednesday, December 1 and Bournemouth International Centre on Thursday, December 2.
Then it will be the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in March.
“And then The Who will be out in America in the spring next year. We will go to do the full tour that we got cancelled. And we may do some festivals. And then we will go back out in October.
“And then we will our swansong in the UK in 2023 maybe.”
“You have got to be realistic! I will be 79 years old.”
Hardly an age that’s stopping the Stones, though?
“Yes, you have got to hand it to them.”
Especially since the death of their drummer Charlie Watts, a good mate of The Who’s late great drummer Keith Moon who died at the age of 32 in September 1978.
“I don’t think Keith was ever going to make old bones. He was an amazing character. I never met a character that comes close to Keith Moon. He was the funniest, the saddest, the cruellest. He could be the most generous person. He could be the most selfish person. He was just massive in everything, and when he was funny, he just made you laugh until you ached.”