Last week, the Who wrapped up the final North American leg of their Who Hits 50 World Tour months after it was originally scheduled to conclude. The group postponed the gigs last year when Roger Daltrey contracted viral meningitis, an inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. After he rested, the band picked up again in February of this year, but the singer says the illness affected him greatly.
“I’m not bullshitting you; the meningitis last year took quite a heavy toll on me physically,” Daltrey tells Rolling Stone. “My legs aren’t good. My feet aren’t good. But I think being able to manage it with the adrenaline of the show, that’s all the matters. It’s two hours of losing myself and forgetting about my feet. But when I come off … ” The singer laughs.
Daltrey says he learned a lot about himself from the experience. “When I look back at it I’m so lucky to be here,” he says. “I got a peace of mind out of it that I’ve never had before. That’s kind of nice.”
Then, in a surprisingly calm cadence, the singer describes how he found solace from the experience. “When you get a shave as close as that from the reaper, you go … It’s weird,” he says, finding the right words. “I was totally peaceful. If death would have come, I would have welcomed it. It was weird. I was in such agony. But then it all went, and I felt this very peaceful space. … I don’t know, it was weird. That’s the one thing I remember as clear as day, that feeling. And any time I get stressed now, I just think of that and the worries go away.”
When Rolling Stone noted how intense the experience sounded, he matter-of-factly replies, “It was,” and laughs brightly.
The Who, which recently played a benefit alongside Eddie Vedder and Joan Jett for Teen Cancer America, have short runs of dates scheduled in the U.K. and mainland Europe through September. In October, they will return to the States for two weekends at Desert Trip, a festival held on the same ground where Coachella takes place that also features the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and Neil Young.