What: Killing Cancer Benefit, The Who, Jeff
Beck, Bryan Adams, Debbie Harry and
Where: Hammersmith Apollo
When: Thursday 13th January 2011
I am a great fan of charity concerts, not just because they raise valuable funds for worthwhile causes but also because they often bring together artists on one stage, who may never play together live again and are therefore a unique opportunity. Tonight was one such night and I felt privileged to have witnessed it.
As we leave the traditional season of giving, we seem to have entered the musical version if this week's gig reviews are anything to go by. Last weekend I was at the Hunger Project gig and now tonight it's Killing Cancer. This one has certainly caught the headlines in many ways, not least because of the stellar line-up of talent involved ranging from Richard Ashcroft, through Bryan Adams to The Who. The other reason that this gig is getting the media attention is that many of us know of people who have been diagnosed with cancer and have seen them go through the traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and associated pain. Killing Cancer is behind a method that has revolutionised thinking with non-invasive treatment that itself doesn't make you ill. That treatment is called PDT (Photodynamic Therapy). in lay mans terms the drug combined with light targets the cancerous cells and deprives them of oxygen; without it the cells die.
Opening tonight's show was a short solo set from the former Verve front-man Richard Ashcroft. Dressed in the obligatory Parker, under the hot stage lights he looked a fool. Luckily some of his music is more appealing. The crowd warmed to him when they heard "Lucky Man" and "Sonnet", however despite the obvious synergy of "The drugs don't work" to tonight's theme he refused to play it. Instead he just tried to get a cheap rise from the crowd by saying that the right ones do.
Next up we had an early appearance of Roger Daltrey on stage, not with The Who but with MD for the evening Billy Nicholls and a selection of acoustic musicians on accordion, double bass and violin. The highlight of the short set was a cover of Taj Mahal's freedom ride.
Bryan Adams was next up. Again a short set with Bryan solo on acoustic guitar. Despite being a stripped down solo performance the crowd really got into what Bryan was doing and "Run to you" sounded great. Bryan had the hearts of the whole audience rising when he called up to the stage a young lady and cancer survivor called Teri Hargreaves. Teri told the story of how PDT had helped her when the doctors had given up on conventional treatments. Teri then joined Bryan to sing "Baby when you're gone". This really helped to remind people why raising money for this cause is so important.
Solo sets over we then had Jeff Beck's appearance on stage backed by The Who (minus Roger and Pete). Looking at Beck you realise just how well Roger Daltrey looks for his age. Beck is 10 years younger than Daltrey but the hard rock and roll life is really looking like it's taken it's toll. Perhaps no surprise when you remember that Beck was in a band with Ronnie Wood! Looks aside you can't fault Beck's guitar playing. It was interesting to see him do an instrumental version of The Beatles "Day in the life". Not many realising the other Beatles link coming from Ringo Star's son Zak Starkey on drums. Zak played throughout the evening and showed once again how good he is on the kit. Anybody that can stand in well for the late Keith Moon deserves all the credit in my eyes.
Debbie Harry (Blondie) joined Beck on stage and we were treated to "Heart Of Glass", "Call Me" and "One Way Or Another". Debbie looked uncomfortable on stage, perhaps ill prepared or perhaps a little stage struck with the company? Debbie still seems to think she's in her younger days and was kitted out in short mini skirt and thigh high leather boots. Whilst still looking good for her age from a distance the large sunglasses were much needed. She isn't much of a mover but despite that her choice of songs were perfect for the evening and really had the crowd on their feet and jumping for the arrival of The Who as tonight's headline act.
The Who again picked some great songs for the evening. We were treated to "Baba O'Reily", "Won't get fooled again" and "Who are you". The Who showed that they haven't lost their edge. In fact these were some of the best live versions I have heard. This even topped last year's super bowl half time show. As a Brit at such an American event I just couldn't help feeling so proud to hear the Who then and those feelings were re-kindled tonight.
Jeff Beck joined The Who on stage for a version of Muddy Waters "Mannish Boy". A great blues song that reminded us where the routes of rock were.
All the main acts returned to the stage for the finale, a rare chance to hear The Who do "Join together", a song not performed live for 20 years.
There are rumours that this could be the last ever Who concert after Roger announced he'd had his own cancer scare with a pre-cancerous growth removed from his throat. Pete Townshend has also been suffering from a long term hearing problem caused by excessive noise. We love rock music loud but we still need to remember the long term dangers.
The Who will be sorely missed if this is their final gig. They are Long term supporters of Cancer charities with Daltrey a patron of Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT). Fingers crossed that this coming March sees a longer set by The Who at TCT's annual home of The Royal Albert Hall. Four songs even of such great quality will never be enough for a headline act and certainly never enough for a Who gig.