Let's face it, it's Roger Daltry that keeps The Who alive. Somehow he manages to persuade Pete Townshend to take part in occasional tours and even rarer recording sessions, and take care of the legacy of his compositions. One gets the feeling Townshend would be happy to putter on undisturbed by the public or press if it wasn't for Daltry's willingness to keep singing.
Since Pete only comes out every couple of years, Daltry always has another show or two on the go, and this orchestral version of Tommy lets him do his own thing on The Who's classic rock opera. Well, not alone of course. There a gigantic orchestra on stage, a full rock band, and a substitute Pete too, little brother Simon Townshend. Simon has been touring with The Who for the past couple of decades, so he knows the score, and he even sounds a bit like Pete, certainly enough to sing the bits that his brother sang in the original Tommy. It gives the show little bit more Who connection as well, and Simon is certainly a welcome presence.
Daltry still sounds great, and while he's lost a little range, this is still his part. The songs are so familiar, I can't imagine anyone else doing a decent job. As for the musicians, the 76-minute piece does lend itself to orchestral treatment, and as soon as the Overture begins, the excitement is there. Pete Townshend had a fine grasp of orchestral sounds and arrangement, and this gives us an idea what Tommy might have been like if the band could have taken, say, 50 pieces on the road with them back in '69. There are a few arrangement touches added throughout, nothing that adds (or detracts) from the well-known show, but the occasional difference just to remind us this is a new production. Where it does fall down by comparison is on the rock band side. The original Who was able to perform all this music with just three pieces and voice, and do it with amazing power. That, of course, was because each of the four was a virtuoso, and together they brought a magic and magnetism to Tommy that cannot be replicated. There were always flubs and malfunctions, bad jokes and entire bad nights when The Who did it, and there was probably never a night were it all went perfect. This orchestral show on the other hand, is pretty much flawless, the music is still fun, but it misses the rest of the gang of course. As long as Daltry's still about though, Tommy deserves to live on.