The man who sang youth anthems such as "My Generation" and "The Kids Are Alright" is now 73 years old, but the Who's Roger Daltrey approaches performing his classics the same as always. "When I sing 'Baba O'Riley,' a song I've sung a thousand times, I'm singing it for the first time. That's always been my method. I have to sing them like it's the first time."
That first time was in 1964, when Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon formed the Who. From playing Woodstock to staging the first rock opera in Tommy, the British quartet was the archetype of a rock band. Daltrey, with his golden locks, flamboyant wardrobe, and booming voice, played the role of the frontman perfectly. But he shows no false modesty. "I always had an inkling once Keith Moon joined us that the Who would be successful. It was the kind of group that could have broken up any day. I'm amazed we still do it."
The two surviving original members — Daltrey and Townshend — still play as the Who, having recently completed their first South American tour in stadiums filling 200,000 people. Daltrey, though, feels the need to perform more frequently than Townshend. This desire has led to a series of solo shows including one scheduled for Hard Rock Live this Wednesday, November 1. "At my age, if I want to keep singing, I have to keep singing or else the vocal cords will go. To keep my voice in tune, I have to do these shows." These shows sans Townshend have Daltrey backed by every other touring member of the Who, including Jon Button, Scott Devours, Loren Gold, John Corey, Frank Simes, and Pete's brother, guitarist Simon Townshend.
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At his solo shows, Daltrey tries to stretch out his repertoire. "With the Who, people want the hits, so we play the 20 hits," he says. "There's the potential to do a different kind of show where we only play two hits and we play songs we haven't touched in 30 or 40 years. It would be great to approach them from a younger brain."
Asked which Who songs he thinks have gone underappreciated, Daltrey becomes coy, perhaps thinking the question is a ruse to figure out his set list. "People don't like surprises with their antisocial media. I find it ridiculous. Word of mouth was much better. You could imagine a band before you saw them and the band would surprise you every night. Expect nothing from the show and you won't be disappointed — that's my philosophy in life." But then he has a change of heart. "We'll play 'Young Man Blues,' a song from '64. We haven't played it in 40 years. I love it. It shows the roots of the Who."
Though Daltrey is certain the Who will continue as a touring entity, he's uncertain if the band will record new music. But he isn't closing the door on a new Who album, even though the last release was in 2006. "I'd like to record new music, but it all depends if Pete has new material. I'm very proud of what we've created. Fame brings its own set of problems, but the Who has always stayed true to our beliefs."