By Bob Linneman
There is nothing better than listening to classic rock at The Mann music center. British legend, Roger Daltrey teamed up with The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia to bring The Who's 1969 LP Tommy in its entirety to Philly. The symphonic 'Tommy' Tour is backed by guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, guitarist Frank Simes, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button and drummer Scott Devour.
As the air cooled in the open arena, the opening Fsus, Dsus4, C#m chords played and the crowd roared with anticipation to experience the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy. Simon and Frank were positioned on either end of the stage. The guitar playing was incredible as they played note for note. Simon could be a doppelganger for Pete; he sings and performs just like his brother (respectfully no windmill guitar sweeps). Positioned to the far left of the stage was the conductor, Keith Levenson who had the incredible task of leading the huge crowd of musicians which make up the orchestra that filled the stage. Roger walked on stage and the crowd went crazy. Many fans I spoke with told me that they have seen The Who in double digits. One fan said, " I don't go to many shows these days but, it's Daltrey for Christ sake."
The crowd erupted the first time they heard “Tommy can you hear me...” as Roger started the mic swinging early, much to the fans delight. It was such a fantastic experience as Townsend on guitar played note for note, although it was a bit weird for me watching Roger and two guitarists with a conductor in the background. If you closed your eyes you would think that it was the original line up as Townsend and Daltrey went back and forth with vocals as the songs played.
The “back up” band looked like they were having so much fun. I loved watching the string section with arms moving in perfect unison during “Gypsy Queen”, leading to a standing ovation. “Fiddle About” was a perfect opportunity to experience the full orchestra as it reached the crescendo and ended in perfect unison until you could hear a pin drop.
The stage became full of flashes as the acoustic guitar started the rapid opening chords of "Pinball Wizard", with guitarist Frank Simes hitting the familiar chords on the electric guitar. It basically stayed that way the rest of the evening, crushing performance with another standing ovation.
Once the "album" was performed, Daltrey treated the crowd to a few classics, Who tunes and a new tune, performing "Who Are You" and "Baba O'Riley" (which featured an incredible violin solo by Katie Jacoby). Roger ended with "Always Heading Home", a selection from his new release "As Long As I Have You” The tour continues over the Summer throughout the United States.
Setlist: Overture, It's a Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight to the Blind(Sonny Boy Williamson cover), Christmas, Cousin Kevin, The Acid Queen,Do You Think It's Alright?, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, There's a Doctor, Go to the Mirror!, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash the Mirror, Sensation, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I'm Free,Welcome, Tommy's Holiday Camp, We're Not Gonna Take It. Encore: Who Are You, Baba O'Riley (with violin solo by Katie Jacoby), Always Heading Home.