Debbie Harry Revives Blondie, the Who Reunites for Charity Show

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of the Who. The band is backing the Killing Cancer charity event. Source: The Outside Organization Ltd. via Bloomberg

Debbie Harry was ice cool. Roger Daltrey ran around like a naughty schoolboy, reunited with Pete Townshend, who chopped out guitar riffs. Bryan Adams was lively, Richard Ashcroft dreary and Jeff Beck showy.

All were playing at last night’s charity Concert for Killing Cancer, organized by British mod rockers the Who, at London’s HMV Hammersmith Apollo.

Harry returned to her Blondie glory days, wearing knee-high boots, leather skirt and black shades. Her steely delivery of the disco-punk “Heart of Glass” was backed by Beck’s guitar.

Before the show, Who singer Daltrey, 66, spoke about the removal of a pre-cancerous growth from his vocal cords in 2009 and said his voice may “go bang at any time.”

During the concert, he was in full form. With golden curls and spectacles intact, his “Won’t Get Fooled Again” scream and “Baba O’Riley” holler were full of hurt anger.

Townshend lollopped about in chunky boots, black trousers and jacket, throwing his trademark windmill arm thrashes. Zak Starkey updated the typhoon approach of the Who’s original drummer Keith Moon. Now in its fifth decade, the band remains a must-see for any self-respecting music fan.

Ashcroft, lead singer of 1990’s indie-pop band the Verve, wailed through a dirge-filled acoustic set.

Adams, armed only with an acoustic guitar, fared much better. Killing Cancer aims to raise funds and awareness for Photodynamic Therapy, and Adams performed “When You’re Gone” as a duet with a woman who had been successfully treated.

Beck avoided his most flashy virtuosic guitar solos. At the end of the night he joined Daltrey for some old Chicago blues.

Adams, Harry and Beck came back for a closing rendition of “Join Together,” Daltrey amiably guiding Adams through the lyrics taped to the stage. The Who only played for 40 minutes, including the blues interlude. It was not enough: the perfect reason to see them, at another charity show, again.

Rating: ***.


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(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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