The fate of the Who was sealed when Pete Townshend finally figured out that his understated vocals fit his songwriting better than Roger Daltrey's bombast. Daltrey's overstated, pseudo-operatic wails filled Constitution Hall last night as he led his new sextet through his recent solo material and a few Who hits. Daltrey's voice proved undiminished -- and that was the problem: No subtlety or soul crept into his leather-lunged wailing.
To say that Daltrey's own material doesn't hold up to Townshend's should be as obvious as saying Yoko Ono's solo material doesn't compare with her late husband's. In Townshend's slot, singer-guitarist Russ Ballard combined the worst of hard-rock and art-rock cliche's. Guitarist Clem Clemson and keyboardist Alan Shacklock provided the appealing structure for Daltrey's new single, Bryan Adams' "Let Me Down Easy." But only on the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" were the singer's undeniably powerful vocals given much dramatic shape.
Much better was the surpise opening act, Billy Chinnock, Nashville's promising entry in the blue-collar-rock movement. Giving roots-rock a country flavoring much as John Fogerty has, Chinnock managed to make both a pedal steel guitar solo and a blaring tenor sax solo fit in his working-class anthem, "We're Just the Boys on the Avenue." Leading a fine Nashville sextet, Chinnock invested the song with a compelling rhythm guitar riff and a vocal that balanced down-to-earth country with unbowed rock 'n' roll.