British Rock Symphony featuring Roger Daltrey

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
August 7, 1998

What’s wrong with this picture: Roger Daltrey not playing to a full house Tuesday night at the 4,200-seat Rosemont Theatre.

I’m not sure how all the no-shows knew they’d be better off staying home that evening, but they had the good fortune of missing a stinker of an event called the British Rock Symphony.

Here’s the shtick: A 75-piece ensemble–including a full orchestra, a band, a choir, five vocalists and Who frontman Daltrey–play an ambitious 2 1/2-hour show covering classics by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who, as well as solo efforts by various members of those bands.

Here are the facts: The orchestra was exceptional, especially on such cuts as “Kashmir,” where the staccato strings were awe-inspiring.

Unlike, say, Chuck Berry, who has the habit of playing with a pick-up band in whatever city he’s playing, the musicians on this tour rehearsed together for months before making their New York debut in April.

And Daltrey was in great form. But the other five singers who had their turn at lead vocals didn’t fare as well. Not all rock singers have great vocals, but the best ones have enough attitude to make up for any lack of talent.

These vocalists had strong enough voices, but with the exception of the singer who sang a beautifully soulful version of “Ruby Tuesday,” they weren’t suited for rock ‘n’ roll. Too many people have heard how these songs should sound to get satisfaction from weak renditions that would be more at home in a hideous musical like “Rent.”

The cheesy handling of “Satisfaction” was reminiscent more of the “Cheerleaders” sketch from “Saturday Night Live” than anything by the Stones.

The show would’ve been better had Daltrey handled more of the lead vocals. Wearing his usual uniform of jeans, T-shirt and vest, Daltrey was in perfect pitch singing “See Me Feel Me” and “Street Fightin’ Man.” He even showed a bit of his spirited Who persona spinning his mike around, much to the horror of those in his vicinity.

For a truly exceptional look at the marriage between rock and symphony, get out your copy of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” or the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” That truly is beautiful music.

August 7, 1998

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