I wish I could say I had the setlist handy for the Seattle stop on Roger Daltrey's current Use It Or Lose It solo tour, but I don't. Which is unfortunate, because this was truly a case of a really great show sandwiched within the middle of an otherwise merely very good one.
The Who's Roger Daltrey is currently on his first concert tour as a solo act since the mid-eighties. He has no present solo album to support, but is rather playing these dates reportedly to get the vocal pipes into working shape for an upcoming Who album and tour in 2010.
That being said, Daltrey's Seattle stop at the uncharacteristically club-like setting of the thousand seat Showbox Sodo — his second date on this tour, and his first in the U.S. proper (the tour kicked off the previous night in Vancouver B.C.) — was truly a tale of two completely different performers.
For the faithful 1000 or so concert-goers who turned out to see a rare performance from sixties/seventies rock-royalty performing within such intimate confines (Daltrey himself remarked at one point how he wasn't used to playing something less than an arena), there were really only two questions:
How much vintage Who material would Daltrey do, and was his voice in anything resembling working shape?
The former question was answered fairly quickly as Daltrey — backed by a capable band which included Pete Townshend's younger brother, Simon — opened with a semi-acoustic version of "Who Are You?," which soon gave way to a slightly less familiar, but nonetheless welcome rendering of the more obscure Who single, "Pictures Of Lily."
For the Who fans in attendance, seeing an icon like Daltrey performing such arena-rock standards in this setting had to represent something close to nirvana. Daltrey, for his part, also sounded great here.
Unfortunately, the latter part of this question was likewise answered midway through the set when Daltrey led the band through one of the Who's earliest singles, "I Can See For Miles." Daltrey's voice was strong here, but the song was also played in a much lower key than the more familiar original version, and by this time, it was all but obvious there would be none of Daltrey's signature screams forthcoming on this night.
A side trip into Daltrey's solo material from the seventies and eighties served mainly as a excuse for a much needed trip to the bathroom, or for a trip to the bar, or outside for a smoke.
From there, Daltrey's stories of how songwriter Leo Sayer provided many of the songs for solo releases like Ride A Rock Horse were certainly informative enough — but for those of us who were actually around back then, we remember Sayer mainly as the guy who wore clown makeup on one album cover, and had a few Bee Gees-era disco hits like "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing."
In other words, stuff we're better off not being reminded of.
But then, something great happened.
Daltrey's band began the chords to the Pearl Jam hit "Better Man," and sure enough, there was PJ's Eddie Vedder out there on stage with Roger. The two of them sounded excellent together, continuing on through a great version of "The Real Me" from Quadrophenia.
From this point on, Daltrey seemed to get a bit more of a fire under his belly as he powered the band through inspired versions of "Baba O'Riley," and especially a very sweet sounding coda of the Live At Leeds staples "Young Man Blues" and "Shakin' All Over."
Now, this was what we came for.
Daltrey then brought Vedder back out onstage and said, "if I can't hit the high notes here, I've brought someone who maybe can." On a killer version of "Bargain," Vedder did exactly that, and then some.
By this point, Roger Daltrey's Seattle concert was transformed from a rather routine appearance of rock royalty going through the motions in a small venue, into something truly special. I can't imagine anyone leaving the Showbox Sodo at that point feeling like they had seen anything less than true greatness .
Obviously, Daltrey won't be bringing Eddie Vedder along for this entire tour. It's also fairly obvious that on this very early end of the tour, the kinks in the set are still being worked out. But for all of you Who fans out there, I wouldn't miss this. Daltrey may not be able to quite hit the screams that he used to, but his voice is still surprisingly strong.
What I can say for sure, judging by this show, is that Roger Daltrey is nowhere near ready to be put out to pasture just yet. On this night, with a little help from Eddie Vedder, he turned a potentially good show into a great one.