Say this much about Roger Daltrey: The man is practical. You might hear a lot of highfalutin talk about artistic expression from some performers, but Daltrey's West London accent marks the working-class background he came from.
So Daltrey works because it's what he does -- either with or without The Who, a band he has fronted for more than four decades. And now that The Who is idle while Pete Townshend composes material for the musical "Floss" (and the next Who album), Daltrey is doing a solo tour of America that plays in Durham on Wednesday. He might be 65, but he can still howl with the best of 'em.
"I just keep going, that's it," Daltrey says, calling from Los Angeles in the midst of tour rehearsals. "If I stop for any length of time, it will be a dead stop. Singers have to keep singing, which is why old singers keep working every year. If you take a year off at our age, your voice will deteriorate. So I keep using it."
Q: How do you plan a tour like this, when you don't have a new record to show off?
Well, who buys records these days? There's no record industry or record stores. So we're rehearsing now, which is going great. The one thing I'm not sure of yet is material. It's quite an eclectic set of songs, very interesting -- one-third Who, one-third solo and a few covers, good fun. I'm not sayin' what covers until we get out there and see if it works.
Q: Will you be accommodating fans' demands for the obligatory hits, like 1977's "Avenging Annie"?
I don't know about that one, actually. Some of them sound dated now, you know? And that one is not so great. It rambles on, feels out of place. But it's a favorite of yours?
Q: It was briefly reported that you'd be doing some performances this year with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the annual hard-rock Christmas tour.
I don't know where that came from. I did a few shows with them over a weekend once and it was fun. I did like the guys who put it on; they seemed highly ambitious and creative. Anything to keep musicians working is good, especially in this climate. Touring costs are astronomic, so it's hard.
Q: Do you have any acting projects coming up?
No, there's too much reality stuff. There's very little great drama in movies, all the great drama is onstage now. I've had a couple of things offered, but I don't want to be stuck in the West End of London at this moment of my life.
Q: Looking back at your own filmography, do you have a favorite acting role?
I never watch any of them. I don't know how you'd ever stop taking yourself seriously if you did that. But actors talking about acting, that's even worse than singers talking about singing. You have to just ignore it. Acting in movies is something you're not in control of, because you're under the control of so many other people. If I had to choose one, I'd say [1980's] "McVicar" as a film. I think it stands up today, out of its period, as a film noir of English cinema.
Q: What was it like to win a Kennedy Center honor last year, alongside Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Barbra Streisand and Twyla Tharp?
It was incredibly humbling, and very high-brow. A high honor indeed. But it was great to be entertained for two days. I didn't have to do anything, I was not allowed to speak or go on a stage -- it's all done to you instead. So I just laid back and partied. Everyone was very gracious. It felt incredibly humbling.
Q: Have you heard any of the songs Townshend has written for "Floss" yet?
[laughing]: What songs? I take it all with a pinch of salt. I don't read any of it because I'm too exhausted from reading all those things for 40 years. I just wait until he's got the songs and we'll see where we are. He's a deep well. He's allegedly writing it, so I'll hear something at some point.
Q: You were quoted recently saying you want to die onstage with The Who someday. Really?
If I did die onstage, that would be my dream death. But I don't worry about things like that. Whatever's gonna happen, happens. I've never had any fear of death, but I don't look forward to it. But it would be memorable.