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The Who's Roger Daltrey looks forward to Birmingham Symphony Hall concert

He calls from the States. The Who are on a huge tour of the USA and Roger Daltrey is enjoying being back on the road.

Roger Daltrey, who is coming to Birmingham's Symphony Hall
Roger Daltrey, who is coming to Birmingham's Symphony Hall

It’s a colossal tour that continues until the end of this month, taking in the iconic Madison Square Gardens along the way. The band do three shows every six days, with a single day and then two days off. With a body that’s now 78-years-young, it seems a perfectly reasonable schedule.

Not that Daltrey will be resting when he gets back to Britain. He’ll be hitting the road this summer in a much-rearranged solo tour that takes in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and London’s Palladium, among other prestigious venues. After that, he’ll be back in the States for another five weeks of Who shows in October and November.

He’s chipper, when we speak. In addition to The Who’s shows, his own are finally looming into view. His evening at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall had been due to take place in November but was moved to July 4 due to Covid.

The show will be a special evening of Who classics, rarities, solo hits and a fan Q&A.

The show will comprise a mix of music and conversation built around Roger’s musical journey. It will encompass nearly every style imaginable – including blues, rock, country, soul and metal.

During the evening he will dig into his incredible back catalogue pulling from his nine solo albums, album with Wilko Johnson and even reinterpreting a few Who classics and rarities.

It’s a show for real music fans and will give a unique insight into how all these great songs came about; what the influences were and where the sounds originated.

“Throughout my life I have sung with so many great musicians, from the heavy rock of The Who and Wilko Jonson, to the Irish lilt of The Chieftains,” Roger says. “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.”

Daltrey is thrilled that Covid restrictions have been lifted, allowing him to tour. He’s happy on the road and the responses to The Who’s shows have been outstanding.

“It’s going really well. Musically it’s great. It’s so good to be back, working. Hopefully we can carry on. Covid was a disaster for the music industry. The government shut the world down and that left us with enormous implications. No band now can get insured for Covid. Covid is going to be there forever.

“To start up a tour like The Who tour that we started is tough. By the time we hit the road, we were £1.5 million in debt because we’d got rehearsals to pay for, all the air tickets, all the stuff you have to do to get the show on the road. The crew had nothing during Covid. It was extremely difficult. The only thing now left for musicians is touring. There’s no money in making records. The only thing left is being on the road.”

Reconnecting with the audience has been Daltrey’s greatest joy and he and Pete Townsend have fired up songs that have become icons.

“The audience has been let out the cage, so they are happy about that too. The fact that we’ve been through such a traumatic stressful time means that people let their hair down. We’re so much better off than most of the people around the world though. Others are still really suffering. I have kept the voice in good order, so I just keep my fingers crossed and keep healthy.”

His solo dates have been much changed after shows were postponed in line with Covid regulations. Daltrey is glad he’ll be able to perform with a smaller crew come summer.

“I had my solo tour planned for last November. I want to do that in summer. I was doing that to employ loads of musicians. So I got a band that will be four to five people, but we want to get ten people on the stage. I just do things one step at a time and do it well.”

He’s busy on more than just tours, however, having been working on a film about The Who’s legendary drummer Keith Moon. He’s in the final stages of getting a film together and discussions are ongoing about directors and budgets. “It will happen when we find the person we feel is capable of playing Keith Moon, which is the hardest part of all. That was the hardest thing for Queen, when they put together the movie Bohemian Rhapsody; they had to find someone to play Freddie.”

Moon was a man who became a myth and Daltrey describes him as a complete bag of contradictions. “He could be the kindest, the cruellest, the saddest, the meanest, the most generous. It was a complete box of tricks. But he was the funniest man I’ve ever met in my life. Anyone who knew Keith Moon – and he had a dark side, he wasn’t nice to every one – but anyone who knew him loved him. Keith was expressive. He was the perfect drummer for the Who.”

The Who’s achievements are extraordinary, though Daltrey keeps himself in check. Though they’ve sold more than 100 million records and enjoyed such hits as I Can't Explain, My Generation, Substitute and Happy Jack as well as the 1969 concept album Tommy, including the single Pinball Wizard, he’s focused on the here and now.

“I can’t look at it in terms of what I’ve done. I don’t know what we’ve done. I’m just the bloke that sings. You sing a song, that’s done, that’s it. I really appreciate people saying they like stuff but I don’t look at it like that. I try to keep my ego in check. I have incredible pride in the music. I’ve always felt with the Who that like attracts like. You couldn’t have found four more different characters if you’d tried. To put us on stage and create a chemistry like we did is truly miraculous. I am very proud of what we’ve done. We’ve taken chances with our music. We did a rock opera, how audacious was that. we did the film of tommy which was in your face at the time. We took chances all the way through.

“We never really got stuck in a rut. Every time we do a production it’s different. People want to hear those songs – the fans don’t want new music. They want to hear the old hits. But there are so many that we can go and change the set every night and there’s still songs we don’t play.”

He stays on the road for one reason and one reason alone: he loves it. “You can’t do it unless you love it, you really can’t. You have to have that belief in the music and you’re making music that is touching people.”

The Who have been doing that since 1964 – and still they continue.

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