Roger Daltrey and the Cleveland Orchestra Team Up at Blossom to Offer Their Take on the Who’s ‘Tommy’

Concert Review

click to enlarge Roger Daltrey and the Cleveland Orchestra Team Up at Blossom to Offer Their Take on the Who’s ‘Tommy’
Roger Mastroianni, Courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra
Nearly 50 years old, Tommy, the Who’s concept album about a "deaf, dumb and blind" boy who plays a mean pinball, continues to resonate. In the wake of its release in 1969, the groundbreaking album became a film, an opera and then a musical.

This year, Who singer Roger Daltrey took it on the road to several different cities where he performed the opus in its entirety with the accompaniment of an orchestra.

Last night, the tour came to Blossom where Daltrey and the Cleveland Orchestra teamed up to put their spin on the disc as part of a concert aimed at celebrating Blossom's 50th anniversary. While Daltrey and his band (guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, guitarist Frank Simes, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button and drummer Scott Devour) tended to overwhelm the orchestra with their amplified instruments, the concert showed how well Tommy has held up.

It also showed how much Daltrey, who regularly swung his microphone and talked about his love for Cleveland, which he said has some "rock 'n' roll magic dust," remains an engaging performer. As an aside, Daltrey also said he was thrilled the Blossom stage was air-conditioned; he complained the South has been "hotter than a witch's tit" this summer.

Wearing sunglasses and a white shirt that he left unbuttoned to the top of his severely tanned chest, Daltrey looked every bit the rock star as he sauntered onto the stage after his band and the orchestra played the album’s opening track, “Overture.” Since the studio version of “Overture” features horns, the orchestra helped Daltrey perform a rendition of the song that was particularly faithful to its studio counterpart.

Daltrey capably delivered “It’s a Boy” and “1921,” the latter of which concluded dramatically as Daltrey tenderly sang, “What about the boy?” Daltrey energetically banged a couple of tambourines together during “Amazing Journey” and then sounded particularly menacing on an eerie rendition of “Eyesight to the Blind”; especially well-suited to the orchestra, the song sounded spectacular with the accompaniment of strings.

The orchestra gave some real musical heft to “Acid Queen” and “Pinball Wizard,” a track that found Townshend singing the first few lyrics before handing the rest of the song’s vocal duties over to Daltrey. Townshend and Daltrey harmonized particularly well on “There’s a Doctor,”  and the orchestra loosened up for the hard rocking "I'm Free."

Throughout the concert, Daltrey would evocatively sing “touch me/feel me/hear me” while the orchestra hummed along with him. The nearly two-hour show came to a climax as Daltrey and the orchestra launched into the album’s final track, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Fans stood for the first time and enthusiastically applauded, perhaps sensing that it would likely be their only chance to see such a terrific pairing.

The encore included renditions of “Who Are You” and “Baba O’Riley.” While Daltrey and his bandmates tended to dominate the sound mix for these two tracks, they still resonated particularly well with orchestral accompaniment. We can't imagine a better way of marking Blossom's 50th anniversary.