Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Teen Cancer America Benefit: Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont, IL, May 14, 2015


Tonight was very special.

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In parallel to our Fall show in London (where Roger Daltrey hosted a Teenage Cancer Trust benefit with members of Rush, Oasis, Def Leppard, etc.) Pete Townshend arranged a special musical event for this leg of the tour. Co-host Eddie Vedder is a local from nearby Evanston. Ed and Pete invited their friends for a night of some wonderful music.


The Rosemont Theatre is rather intimate compared to our usual arenas. Holding only a couple thousand in plush theater seating, it was a perfect setting for the smaller acoustic performances that started the show. The sound system was excellent.

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Roger Daltrey introduced the event. Then Simon Townshend opened the show with some solo numbers, with Eddie joining him for a couple of his own, a great duo of strong voices. Eddie looked cool in a classic mod Union Jack coat, and did two more by himself. It soon became clear that we in Eddie Vedder home territory – and this was very much HIS crowd here, joined by some lucky Who fans.



Pete T came to join Ed on ‘Corrina, Corrina’ an old folk song done once on record for the Amnesty International/Bob Dylan salute project. There are several versions of Pete doing it on the web  – a beautiful song.




Pete dropped back into familiar Quadrophenia territory with ‘Drowned’ solo and ‘I’m One’ with the band.

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A special moment: Pete had taken some time to record with session players in Nashville: one of the products was a direct-to-disc recording of I’m One. Direct-to-disc means a vinyl record is cut without overdubs, one whole live performance in the studio. Each take creates a new 12″ record. Pete explained this fully and then produced the actual records – his takes done at the studio. To demonstrate, he played one of the cuts (partially) for the audience as a teaser. Then, he announced the auction of this “one-off” unique collector’s record. Literally no others will be made, and no copies were done. Pete explained the lucky winner can keep it to themselves or license the publishing and sell it, or just flog it up to Ebay right away! All funds are for the charity, which is Teenage Cancer America. Money raised from this show will be used to support programs for teenagers and young adults with cancer at the University of Chicago Medicine along with other local children’s charities.


SEE the contest at:

Pete brought out his longtime friend Joe Walsh. They’d met back in the late ’60s during The James Gang era with Joe. For those who don’t know, Joe gave Pete a very special gift; a Gretsch electric guitar, a rare ’50s Fender Amp and cables and a certain volume pedal. Together, the rig made an AMAZING sound. Pete used it for much of the Who’s Next album, and other classic Who recordings. (In turn, Pete gave Joe an ARP2600 synthesizer, which turned Joe into a synth nut.)



Joe stomped and sang, starting with ‘The Kids Are Alright’, bringing his unique Cleveland voice in contrast to Roger’s usual tone. ‘Eminence Front’ was especially heavy, as Joe took lead guitar duties and really brought out the rock side of this usually funky tune.

Joan Jett came out for great versions of ‘Summertime Blues’ and ‘I Can’t Explain’. It’s very rare to see Joanie without a Gibson guitar, but she looks very comfortable onstage without it. (Aside from being out opening act for this tour, Joan’s first album was sponsored by The Who, who allowed her use of their studio when no one cared and she could not get a record deal.) Pete said openly how much he and Roger loved her and expressly went out of his way to give her the biggest hug. On ‘Summertime Blues’, Joe Walsh did a fine job of the low growly vocals needed, which John used to supply in the old Live at Leeds days. Speaking of guitars, Pete played his Rickenbacker onstage for the first time in many years here.

‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was sung by Eddie, and his voice is truly suited to this one, look for videos of it online. He dances and leaps around like a boxer when the song gets heavy; watch the old VH1 Rock Honors Who event to see him in his best motion on Who songs.

Pearl Jam’s ‘Better Man’ drove the crowd crazy, possibly one of the peaks of a superb evening. As mentioned before, it was truly a Pearl Jam/Vedder audience event, based on The Who music.

The evening’s surprise guest was Rockford Illinois’ own Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, who emerged to power chord through the closers, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and ‘My Generation’ as Pete stayed on acoustic guitar. Longtime Who fan and friend of Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, Rick sported his usual hat and checkerboard Hamer Explorer guitar and strap. The crowd loved seeing him, always recognizable, and energetic as usual. Even when standing still, he looks like he’s moving. And he does bounce and jump along the way, trademark animated moves that also make the Cheap Trick shows so great. Rick’s a great writer, someday we’ll see similar tribute shows to his own music, I’m sure.


Back in the mid-70s, Chicago’s Hamer guitars were launched by Rick Nielsen (their first big name artist) and The Runaways, who were the first band to receive the now-iconic Cheap Trick t-shirts, which Joan Jett wore long before anyone knew of the little band from Rockford. Small world, indeed…

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There are some great shirts, jackets and posters from this event. If they are still available, watch here, we’ll find a link to any available items and post it. Meanwhile check out

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Tonight’s Set List

I’m One
The Kids Are Alright (with Joe Walsh)
Eminence Front (with Joe Walsh)
I Can’t Explain (with Joe Walsh and Joan Jett)
Summertime Blues (with Joe Walsh and Joan Jett)
Behind Blue Eyes (with Eddie Vedder)
Better Man (with Eddie Vedder)
Save It for Later (with Eddie Vedder)
Won’t Get Fooled Again (with Eddie Vedder, Joe Walsh, and Rick Nielsen)
My Generation (with Eddie Vedder, Joe Walsh, and Rick Nielsen)






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