Roger Daltrey rolled out the first three dates of a solo tour yesterday. “[Daltrey] and members of the Who touring band will be on the road late summer 2021,” reads an announcement on the Who’s official website, “performing some Who hits, a few rarities and some solo hits. So far, three dates have been announced with several more to follow.”
Daltrey first hit the road as a solo artist in late 1985 to support his LP Under a Raging Moon. He managed to headline Madison Square Garden in New York City, but the tour was relegated to theaters in other markets and the whole thing fizzled out after a mere six gigs even though he packed the set with Who classics. Simply put, fans wanted the genuine article. And when the band reunited in 1989, Daltrey was suddenly back to playing to packed football stadiums.
He was again a man without a band once that tour wrapped up in November 1989. The singer’s 1992 solo album Rock in the Head was such a commercial disaster that he didn’t even attempt a tour behind it. But on December 4th of that year Daltrey found himself on the bill of a very unusual show in Cali, Colombia, called Ecomundo 92. It was supposed to be part of a much broader event designed to raise ecological awareness in the South American nation, but little actually came to fruition beyond this single concert.
Only about 2,000 people attended the show, but they saw an incredible night of music that included Kool and the Gang, Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, several regional acts, and headliners David Gilmour and Roger Daltrey. Pink Floyd aficionados have noted that it’s the only known time that Gilmour sang all the words in “Comfortably Numb” by himself, even the “just a little pinprick” segment. And when his set was done, Gilmour stuck around to play guitar for Daltrey. Check out this video of them playing “Who Are You.” (Gilmour was very comfortable playing Who songs due to his experience on Pete Townshend’s Deep End tour in 1985.)
The concert was memory-holed almost immediately after it ended, but enterprising fans helped to track down the footage and get it onto YouTube. (Read more about their efforts here.) And two years later, Daltrey celebrated his 50th birthday by playing an evening of songs by the Who and Pete Townshend at Carnegie Hall. He took the show on the road that summer, but even with John Entwistle serving as a nightly “special guest,” it struggled in many markets. Sales were so anemic at the Richfield Coliseum in Ohio that free T-shirts were offered to anyone who showed up.
Roger Daltrey played larger venues in 2011 and 2018 by performing Tommy in its entirety at every gig. The tour he just announced seems to have come together relatively last-minute, which might explain why he’s hitting places like the Washington State Fair and the Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Spokane. These will probably be fun shows, and he usually plays rare songs that never make actual Who set lists. But like every other solo tour, their larger function will be to keep his voice in shape for whenever the Who decide it’s time to get back on the road.