It was a night of power speeches and power chords. On Thursday, The Recording Academy’s charity division, The MusiCares Foundation, hosted the 11th Annual Map Fund Concert honoring The Who’s Pete Townshend and its manager, Bill Curbishley at New York’s Best Buy Theatre.
Host Colin Quinn kept the packed audience of nearly 2,000 laughing, in between pre-taped video accolades from Roger Waters, Elton John, Mick Jagger, and a slew of other notable rockers. But, in the end, it was the music that made the evening so special.
With an all star line-up that included Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett, Billy Idol, Willie Nile, and Who lead vocalist Roger Daltrey, many of Townshend’s Who classics were re-interpreted with unique energy. The current Who touring band backed all the performers.
“His songs touch people so much,” Daltrey told the audience of his longtime band-mate Townshend. “They mean as much today as they did when he wrote them all those years ago. Well done, Pete.” Breaking into the Live At Leeds classic, “Young Man Blues,” Daltrey proved his vocal chops are still very much intact for the band’s current Who Hits 50 world tour.
From Joan Jett’s edgy arrangement of “I Can’t Explain,” to Willie Nile’s dark and angst-driven version of “Substitute,” it was clear everyone on stage was having a good time, including punk-rocker Billy Idol who turned in a snarly, no-holds barred interpretation of “Who Are You,” delivering the line, “Tell me, who the f— are you?,” like he really meant it.
The music kicked into high gear when both Daltrey and Townshend took the stage together with the band, making it a full-fledged The Who appearance.
They were joined by Bruce Springsteen for a rollicking take of the band anthem of rebellion, “My Generation.”
Between all the great music came a number of heartfelt comments from both celebrities and music industry execs, praising both Townshend and Curbishley for all they have done to help others with addiction problems.
“When Keith Moon died, that’s when I got into trouble,” Townshend said before the show, about his own struggle with addiction. During his acceptance speech, Townshend said it was not drugs but alcohol that caused his downward spiral in the 1980s. “For about 15 years I just drank a lot. At one point I was drinking about three bottles of brandy a day. I just lived on cognac.”
Prior to launching into “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” with the entire ensemble of guest artists, Townshend pointed out one uplifting fact: “The reason I am able to get up on stage and do this tour with The Who and still put on a fairly good show is because of the thirty years I have been clean and sober.”
Proceeds from the event go to the The MAP Fund, which provides members of the music community access to addiction recovery.
(Pictured: Bruce Springsteen, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend perform onstage during the MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit Concert)