Last night outside Chicago, Eddie Vedder sauntered onto the stage of the Rosemont Theater wearing a fanciful coat emblazoned with the British Union Jack. “I got this jacket from Lauren the keyboard player who supposedly got it from Roger,” the singer explained. At this event, “An Evening Celebrating the Who” raising money to benefit the band’s Teen Cancer America organization, everyone in the room knew of the Roger in question. Minutes earlier, he had even made an appearance.
“I can’t sing tonight,” the Who frontman told the crowd. “Doctor’s orders. But we’ve got a whole bunch of fantastic guests lined up for you.” As the night progressed, these guests would all share the stage with Pete Townshend, tearing through old hits, a couple of deep cuts and a few classic covers.
Vedder came out first, opening the show with a pair of duets sung with Pete’s brother, Simon. He then picked up a ukulele to perform Who by Numbers track “Blue, Red and Grey.” This, he revealed, was the song that inspired him to take up the Hawaiian instrument in the first place. From there he moved to guitar for an acoustic take on Into the Wild‘s “Far Behind” and introduced the man of the hour with a duet on Bob Dylan’s “Corrina, Corrina.” When the song ended, the pair quickly segued into “You Stand by Me,” after which Vedder left the stage to resume his place in the shadows.
That’s pretty much the way the evening went: One musical configuration would get set, play a couple of tunes and cede the spotlight to another. The whole event felt more like a well-choreographed jam session than a proper rock concert – not that the 4,000 people packed into the cozy theater seemed to mind. The crowd cheered every new star and sang along with every number performed.
Townshend played a pair of solo acoustic songs before the full Who touring band kicked in and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh grabbed the mic. Walsh sang “The Kids Are Alright” before Townshend took the lead on “Eminence Front.” “This next one is the first song I ever sold to a television show,” he remembered. “It was in the 1980s and the show was called Miami Vice. I think I bought a boat.” Finishing the track, the two men stepped back to make way for recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Jett, who ripped into a fiery version of “Summertime Blues” with Walsh grumbling out the gruffer parts formerly reserved for John Entwistle.
A song later and Vedder was back for a crowd-pleasing one-two of “Behind Blue Eyes,” and Pearl Jam’s “Betterman.” Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick turned up shortly thereafter to trade guitar licks with Walsh during an incendiary take on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Daltrey’s signature primal shriek was missed, but between Walsh’s expressive face, Nielsen’s flashy finger work and Townshend’s signature windmills, there was more than enough spectacle to make up for the absence.
That lineup closed the show with a slowly building, ultimately volcanic performance of the Who’s most identifiable hit, “My Generation.” It was a thrilling conclusion to the remarkable night – an event where a decade-spanning combination of rock icons could celebrate one of the most cherished catalogs in pop history and support an important cause. Everyone in the building – both onstage and in the crowd – appeared to appreciate the moment.
“She Asked Me,” Simon Townshend and Eddie Vedder
“I’m the Answer,” Simon Townshend and Eddie Vedder
“Blue, Red and Grey,” Eddie Vedder
“Far Behind,” Eddie Vedder
“Corrine, Corrina,” Eddie Vedder and Pete Townshend
“You Stand By Me,” Eddie Vedder and Pete Townshend
“Drowned,” Pete Townshend
“I’m the One,” Pete Townshend
“The Kids Are Alright,” Pete Townshend and Joe Walsh
“Eminence Front,” Pete Townshend and Joe Walsh
“Summertime Blues,” Pete Townshend, Joe Walsh and Joan Jett
“I Can’t Explain,” Pete Townshend
“Behind Blue Eyes,” Eddie Vedder and Pete Townshend
“Betterman,” Eddie Vedder and Pete Townshend
“Save It For Later,” Eddie Vedder and Pete Townshend
“Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Eddie Vedder, Pete Townshend, Joe Walsh and Rick Nielsen
“My Generation,” Eddie Vedder, Pete Townshend, Joe Walsh and Rick Nielsen