It was inevitable that some middle-aged singer would wind up doing classic-rock favorites in front of an orchestra. David Coverdale, maybe. Or David St. Hubbins in a lost "Spinal Tap" sequel. But the Who's Roger Daltrey?
Yes, the generally respectable Daltrey did front the British Rock Symphony at the Universal Amphitheatre on Thursday, doing songs not only of his band, but also the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Procol Harum. And good for him.
The touring package was in part built to give young student musicians from the Royal Academy in London and an inner-city New York teen choir experience in a professional endeavor, while raising money for VH1's Save Our Music education charity. Daltrey's participation made it feasible, both to sell tickets (though this was far from sold out) and bring authority to the performances.
Daltrey could have sleepwalked through it and accomplished that. However, vying for good sport of the year, he gave his microphone-twirling all in a lusty, joyful performance. After an opening portion of awkward suites featuring four principal vocalists without the star, Daltrey lit a fuse in a generous set built around Who songs that were designed for orchestral bombast--"Love Reign O'er Me," "See Me, Feel Me" and "Who Are You?" among them.
He also added spunky solo acoustic performances of a Johnny Cash medley and a couple of Who requests shouted from the audience, telling stories along the way. And often, he cheerfully took a background role while letting the youngsters take the spotlight. Now that's rock 'n' roll.