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Live review: Roger Daltrey @ the 1stBank Center

Almost 50 years ago Roger Daltrey’s buoyant phrasing and ragged energy fueled the Who’s meteoric rise to one of the world’s most influential rock bands.

Yet unlike most superstar rockers from the ’60s and ’70s, little has changed for Daltrey, who rocked his band’s 1969 album “Tommy” and then some at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center Sunday.

The superhuman high notes, the guitar-smashing and the golden tresses may be gone, but Daltrey’s still got game, keeping 1stBank’s graying crowd on their feet all night. Daltrey and his five-top band rolled through “Tommy,” the first-ever and best-ever rock opera, note-for-note, skipping only the 10-minute “Underture.”

 

The classically composed tale of the deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard who climbs to messianic status saw 67-year-old Daltrey — wearing an untucked, barely buttoned white shirt and blue jeans — twirling his mic with aplomb and reeling through 25 orchestral songs. Simon Townsend, brother of the Who’s maestro Pete — who composed most of the operatic “Tommy” — helped Daltrey find the higher notes on “Acid Queen” and the anthemic “Go to the Mirror,” all while whirling through a suite of guitars. But Daltrey held his own on “Amazing Journey” and “Pinball Wizard,” his voice a few notes deeper and barely cracking on rare occasion.

Not two years out of throat surgery and 18 shows into a 28-show North American tour, Daltrey howled and growled like little has changed since the slight 20-year-old began his mission with the Who, which eventually anchored the band with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as Great Britain’s Holy Trinity of Rock.

Daltrey’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the climactic closer of the “Tommy” tale, saw drummer Scott Devours channeling the late Keith Moon, hammering his massive set like the Who’s original madman. Townsend too seemed particularly attune to his brother’s style of vicious strumming, elevating the high-octane power chords that still leave millions of eardrums ringing.

By the end of “Tommy,” Daltrey’s voice was slipping. He sipped warm tea after re-starting two songs while Townsend tore through “Going Mobile,” mimicking his brother’s creaking guitar.
“While I’m on the downslope of my career, I’m at the pinnacle of my decline,” Daltrey said, introducing an Irish-tinged “Freedom Ride.”

Guitarist Frank Simes took charge for “Who Are You,” and stayed on-point through a fiery “Young Man Blues” that just about broke Daltrey’s voice. The golden-throated king manned a harmonica for “Baba O’Riley,” keeping his by-now raspy high notes to a minimum.

By the end of the night, Daltrey was squeaking, complaining of a ragweed allergy. Still, he slung the ukulele under the solo spotlight for an encore “Red, Blue and Grey.” He barely made it through the first stanza before surrendering with a bow.

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Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.

Evan Semón is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work.