Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic
Back in the day, a little cocktail lounge chatter wouldn't have bothered Pete Townshend. No matter how obnoxious the yakking, the music of the Who was enough to overpower anything.
But it was a kinder, gentler Townshend who performed at the House of Blues on Thursday night. And his new pal Eddie Vedder felt compelled to chastise the audience of well-heeled big wheels at the invite-only soiree.
"The last couple of days, spending time with Pete has taught me new things about music and new things as a human," said the Evanston native and Pearl Jam singer. "One of those things is to say what you feel. And I feel like you people talking between songs are driving me nuts."
Oh, that Eddie--always charging at windmills.
Vedder joined Townshend for part of a 12-song set celebrating "Pete Townshend Live." Scheduled to be released by the Downers Grove label Platinum Entertainment on Sept. 21, the disc was recorded during Townshend's concerts in 1997 and 1998 to benefit the Maryville Academy, a Chicago charity that helps abused and neglected children.
Looking like an Oxford literature professor and occasionally donning his glasses to read his lyrics from a music stand, Townshend opened with a solo electric version of "Won't Get Fooled Again." It was nice to hear him hammering away at his red Stratocaster during the rhythmic breaks. But it would have been nicer with some John Entwistle bass and Keith Moon-style drumming.
Townshend tackled "Behind Blue Eyes," "Drowned" and "Let My Love Open the Door" on acoustic guitar and "Cut My Hair" on grand piano before bringing Vedder out. The two shared the vocals on "Hard to Hang Onto," a chestnut from the "Rough Mix" album.
Prof. Pete gave a long monologue setting up a galvanizing duet with Vedder on "Let's See Action," a tune from the aborted "Lifehouse" album, which was to have been the followup to "Tommy." He has finally finished the project and plans to perform it, though he didn't say if it would be with the Who. (He's supposedly considering another reunion.)
Though it was a perfectly fine rendition, the Pearl Jam tune "Better Man" sounded out of place--especially when Pete was reaching deep into his catalog for songs such as "Sheridan Gibson" from "Who Came First."
The two traded guitar licks and choruses on a rollicking "Magic Bus" before closing with "I'm One." Townshend was inspired enough to deliver a few gratuitous windmills. But even more impressive, I could swear I saw the dour Vedder crack a smile.