The Who kicked off the 2015 leg of their 50th anniversary tour earlier this week, and days before it began, Roger Daltrey called into Rolling Stone to explain why this is probably the beginning of the end. “I do know this is the last big tour we’ll ever do,” he says. “We have to be realistic. I want us to stop at the top of our game when we are still really good at what we do. The quality of the music is really what this is all about.”
Ever since the band reformed in 1989, their tours have either focused on the group’s vast catalog of hits or complete albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia. This one is largely a hits affair, though the band is breaking out tunes like “So Sad About Us,” “I Can See For Miles,” “Pictures of Lily,” “Slip Kid” and “A Quick One, While He’s Away” that haven’t been played in many years. “We have songs that if we don’t play, 85 percent to 90 percent of our audience will be disappointed,” says Daltrey. “But we are doing a few obscure ones to please our hardcore fans.”
How are rehearsals going?
Great. It’s not like we don’t know the songs! I mean, the band is amazing; as fresh as ever. There’s something about old rock musicians with good music. It just gets better. Maturity brings something extra to it. What it loses in the youthful exuberance, it makes up with the scars of age.
You’re about to spend the next year traveling the globe and playing a ton of concerts. How do you physically prepare for that?
You just roll with the punches, basically, because there’s nothing you can really do. I maintain my voice to the best of my ability. You just have to hope that your body holds up. The shows are the joy. We do the shows for free. We get paid for the traveling and the schlepping. That’s the grueling bit. After 50 years on the road, with hit records, that’s the bit that becomes lonely at times. We’re away from our families. We’re in a different bed every night, or every other night. The bones aren’t quite as forgiving as they used to be!
Do you worry about your voice a lot?
Oh, my voice is fine. I’m quite lucky that I met the genius Dr. Steven Zeitels up in Boston. My vocal cords are better now than they’ve ever been! I’m actually enjoying playing. There’s something about looking down the end of a telescope and seeing a potential end. It brings me more joy when I sing the songs because it might be the last time. I’ve always tried to sing as though I’m singing a song for the first time, now I sing it as though I’m singing the song for what might be the last time.
“There’s something about looking down the end of a telescope and seeing a potential end. It brings me more joy when I sing the songs because it might be the last time.”
It must make this more emotional for you than usual.
It is. It’s just great to see an audience that goes from the grandchildren to the children of our original fans, with our original fans. It’s just great to see that kind of audience at a rock show. When we started, it was all teenagers or people in their early twenties. Now you get eight-year-olds with eighty-year-olds. I’m proud of that. We’ve always believed that music could unite people, but that demographic at a show was unheard of 50 years ago.