Roger Daltrey has spoken to NME about the upcoming Teenage Cancer Trust shows, as well as The Who‘s “big, bold and sexy” orchestral tour, and whether we’ll hear any new music from the band.
The frontman, who is an Honorary Patron of TCT, enlisted the likes of Kasabian, Wet Leg, Courteeners and Underworld for the 2023 edition of the charity’s annual gig series at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
- READ MORE: Kasabian on headlining Royal Albert Hall and new material: “There’s some wild shit happening”
To close proceedings, Daltrey will play a solo concert at the historic venue on Sunday March 26. He’ll be joined on the night by special guests Richard Ashcroft and Joan Armatrading. Also on the bill are Far From Saints (the new project from Stereophonics‘ Kelly Jones), who are set to deliver their debut live performance that evening.
“The place gets an incredible vibe,” Daltrey told NME of the Albert Hall’s unique atmosphere during the TCT series. “Even though it’s five-and-a-half-thousand seats, it doesn’t feel like it. It almost feels like [the performers are] in your front room.
“It’s every band’s ambition to play the Royal Albert Hall. It’s not an easy place to play; it’s a tricky hall to master the sound for bands going in on a one-off. But because we’ve done it for 21 years, we know all of its quirks. We have the best sound, lights and video in there for the whole week.”
As for his personal highlights from the line-up, Daltrey said: “I’m really glad we got Wet Leg because I’ve had my eye on them from this time last year. I saw them as up-and-coming with something kind of fresh. I find them very interesting – they’re gonna have a great night.”
The final night of @TeenageCancer’s #TeenageCancerGigs.
Sunday 26 March: A Special Gala Evening of Music with Roger Daltrey, @richardashcroft, @farfromsaints & @ArmatradingJoan
Tickets on sale 3 March 9:30am 👇https://t.co/bpbsaZFm5P pic.twitter.com/Z8G7hi6iFM
— The Who (@TheWho) March 2, 2023
The singer praised the participating acts for being “incredibly generous” with their precious time. “They’re giving what is now their total income, which is from the road because there is no other income really in the music industry anymore. It’s all been robbed,” he continued. “So they’re giving up what is potentially their biggest payday, which is a London show. Especially for the bands in the position of Wet Leg where they’re just about to start doing arenas.”
Daltrey went on to talk about how the Teenage Cancer Trust has so far funded 29 age-specific specialist units in NHS hospitals across the country. “We’ve done remarkably well, but it’s not to say we can’t do better,” he told NME. “One of the problems we have, of course, is that we have to work in the NHS, although we’re not a part of it. And if [the patients’] GP or their consultant, and their clinician doesn’t refer them to Teenage Cancer Trust, they don’t even know we’re there, and it’s tragic.”
The frontman explained how “late diagnosis, misdiagnosis and terrible tragedies” are a result of the ongoing “problems with our health service”, adding: “Our system is so flawed with bureaucracy and different systems within systems. You pull your hair out if you try to understand it. It’s a broken system, and no political party has got the balls to fix it. I don’t know how you fix it. But we are lied to about other systems around the world, which function far better than ours.”
Daltrey also criticised the government for failing to compensate TCT when the charity was forced to cancel its concert series for two consecutive years during the pandemic. “When COVID hit, and loads of people were doing loads of things for charity for the NHS, where the bloody hell did the money go?” he said. “We’ve never had an accounting for it.”
In addition to impacting fundraising, the after-effects of the global health crisis on the live music industry meant “it was very difficult getting a week of shows” together at the Royal Albert Hall in 2023.
“The whole business of course was incredibly put out of gear by COVID,” Daltrey told NME. “The two years off [and] the backup in the venues situation for bands touring has made it really difficult to actually lock people in for a night.”
Last year, however, The Who managed to make it back on the road for the first time since 2019. The legendary group played a one-off Teenage Cancer Trust show in London before embarking on their two-leg North American ‘Hits Back!’ tour.
This summer, Daltrey and co will perform a string of special orchestral concerts in the UK. “We really like that format, and I’ve always felt that it suits [guitarist Pete] Townshend‘s music perfectly,” Daltrey told NME.
“When you hear real strings and amplify the orchestrations with the arrangements we’re doing, the sound is just extraordinary. And what it does to you physically, to hear real violins, real cellos and the whole orchestra bit other than synthesisers… Because we’re so used to synthesisers now; it’s really like the live equivalent of a vinyl record, as opposed to the CD player. CDs are crap! It’s only when you hear vinyl that you realise how crap they are.”
He continued: “My instruction to the guy who did our arrangements, [composer] David Campbell, was that I don’t want to hear one phrase that can be any way construed as a pad that someone could be doing on a keyboard. I want it to be really big, bold and sexy. It’s just fabulous. And when you hear a real sound of real musical instruments, it makes the hairs on your body stand on end, it really does.”
Can fans expect to hear a new studio album from The Who?
“What’s the point?” Daltrey laughed in response. “What’s the point of records? We released an album four years ago [2019’s ‘WHO’], and it did nothing. It’s a great album too, but there isn’t the interest out there for new music these days. People want to hear the old music. I don’t know why, but that’s the fact.”
The frontman then explained that the band’s fanbase now ranges “from 80-years-old, all the way down to eight-years-old”, adding: “We’ve got quite a lot of young people in our audience these days. It’s quite interesting that they’re picking up on our music. But record companies, they just don’t do the same job as they used to.”
One stop-off on The Who’s 2022 tour was Cincinnati, Ohio, where a crowd crush tragedy at one of the group’s shows in 1979 resulted in the death of 11 people. This year’s gig at the TQL Stadium saw the band donate all ticket proceeds to local charities. Nine of the 11 victims’ families were also given VIP tickets.
- READ MORE: The Who – ‘WHO’ review: 13 years since their last album, this stands up alongside their classics
Describing The Who’s return to the US city as “wonderful”, Daltrey told NME: “We’ve been in close contact with some of the survivors [and their] friends at a certain place in Ohio very close to Cincinnati, and we’ve supported their memorial for a long, long time.
“We did [the concert] and it raised an awful lot of money that will supply scholarships to those families for a long, long time into the future – a long time, way after we’ve gone. So that’s nice.”
As for the lengthy run of dates on the whole, the singer recalled: “I had a good time, yeah. We always have a good time, it was fun doing it. I’ve just got to keep singing. I’m an old rock singer, and I’ve still got my voice and I’m still singing the keys that the songs were originally written in.
“I’ve got to keep doing it. If I stop for any length of time, I don’t know whether I’ll have a voice at this age after a year off. And that’s the truth. That’s the joy of being a singer: you are the instrument.”
The 2023 Teenage Cancer Trust gig series takes place between March 20-26. Check out the full schedule below, and find any remaining tickets here.
20 – Underworld
21 – An Evening Of Comedy
22 – Wet Leg with CMAT and Honeyglaze
23 – Jake Bugg plus special guests
24 – Courteeners with Stephen Fretwell
25 – Kasabian with The Snuts and The K’s
26 – Roger Daltrey with Richard Ashcroft, Far From Saints and Joan Armatrading
Meanwhile, The Who’s orchestral UK headline tour is set to kick off in Hull on July 6. See those dates below, and purchase tickets here.
6 – Sewell Group Craven Park, Hull
8 – Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
9 – Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
12 – The O2, London
14 – Incora County Ground, Derby
16 – Badminton Estate, Bristol
19 – Seat Unique Riverside, Durham
21 – Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens
23 – 1st Central Cricket Ground, Brighton
28 – Sandringham Estate, Norfolk