Roger Daltrey — former lead singer of the seminal British rock group the Who — celebrated his 50th birthday on the stage of Carnegie Hall by ripping his way through more than 25 songs by former bandmate Pete Townshend.
Backed by the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Michael Kamen, Daltrey and an eclectic mix of artists spanning the musical spectrum got their chance to reinterpret Townshend’s and the Who’s greatest hits.
Especially well-received were Alice Cooper, punk forerunner Lou Reed and Irish folk group the Chieftains, who performed with Irish crooner Sinead O’Connor.
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, a huge fan of the Who from his teenage years, opened the second half of the three-hour show, which will be available (in an edited form) via pay-per-view this weekend.
Performing solo with just an electric guitar, Vedder nearly brought down the house through heartfelt renditions of “The Kids Are Alright,””Sheraton Gibson” (a Townshend solo effort from the 1970s) and the primal scream of rock ‘n’ roll: “My Generation.”
But Daltrey was never long from the spotlight, joking with the enthusiastic crowd and reprising his classic fist-pumping, microphone-swinging stage moves from days gone by. In fine physical shape and good voice, Daltrey did not look or sound that far removed from the band’s heyday of 20 years ago (aside from a few crow’s feet around the eyes).
If nostalgia was in the air, Daltrey only reinforced the mood, sharing stories about late bandmate Keith Moon and uniting Townshend, former Who bassist John Entwistle and the rest of the evening’s guests onstage for a raucous rendition of “Join Together.”
While the 65-piece orchestra filled the stage and brought a not-inappropriate classical edge to Townshend’s best work, the net effect was to make one long for the days when Daltrey and the Who would have ripped the roof off of such a venue with just a guitar, bass, drums and a stack of Marshall amps.