Staff Writer Christopher O'Connor reports
Two weeks after he donned a blond wig and led a faux version of the Who through a set of songs by the British Invasion rock legends, Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder got close to the real thing Wednesday night when he joined Who leader Pete Townshend for two performances in New York.
With Vedder singing verses and back-up on the chorus, Townshend and his band bashed through a version of his "Heart to Hang Onto" on "Late Show With David Letterman," which was taped in New York on Wednesday afternoon and aired Wednesday night.
After the taping, the two moved to the Supper Club for an invitation-only, two-hour concert. Townshend played half the set with his band, then Vedder joined in on vocals for such Who songs as "Magic Bus" and "My Generation", as well as a version of "Last Kiss" Ã¢â‚¬â€ the early-'60s hit recently revived by Pearl Jam, according to Tony DeFelippis, the club's director of operations.
"For those of us from that generation, it was a great show," DeFelippis said.
Townshend was promoting Pete Townshend Live: A Benefit for Maryville Academy, which came out Tuesday. The Maryville Academy is a nonprofit Chicago home for abused and neglected children. The album includes live versions of "Won't Get Fooled Again," "You Better You Bet," "I'm One" and other Who songs.
The album also includes a new version of "Heart to Hang Onto," with Townshend and Vedder sharing vocals. The song, originally recorded by Townshend and ex-Faces bassist Ronnie Lane on their album Rough Mix (1977), starts out gently and builds into a horn-spiked rocker reminiscent of "5:15" and "Cut My Hair" from the Who's 1973 album, Quadrophenia. In Townshend's classic rock-operatic form, the song's lyrics describe the vulnerabilities and fears of three characters: Johnny Boy, Sally and Daddy.
Townshend and Vedder, who did not talk on Letterman's show, did their best to look iconic. Townshend, dressed in black, played his electric guitar in a modified version of his trademark windmill style. (He doesn't do full windmills anymore because of a bad shoulder.)
Vedder, wearing a green shirt and navy blue jacket and pants, mostly stood and sang with his eyes closed. Occasionally, he looked over lovingly at Townshend as he sang the chorus. Vedder often has described Townshend as a hero, and two weeks ago he performed a set of Who songs with the band C Average at the Yoyo a Go Go festival in Olympia, Wash. At that gig, Vedder wore a long blond wig and twirled his microphone in the manner of Who singer Roger Daltrey, and the other musicians masqueraded as the other members of the Who.
The Who, which also featured bassist John Entwistle Ã¢â‚¬â€ who played several Who songs with his John Entwistle Band at Woodstock '99 on Monday Ã¢â‚¬â€ and late drummer Keith Moon, were among the major bands to emerge from the British Invasion in the 1960s, along with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. They were known for their aggressive, metallic pop sound and Townshend's smart, searching lyrics on such albums as the rock opera Tommy (1969) and Who's Next (1971).
The Supper Club performance was also a benefit for Maryville Academy.