Eddie Vedder And The Who In Chicago

Eddie Vedder whipped out Pearl Jam's "Wishlist" for the first time at one of his solo gigs over the weekend, and the song's line "I wish I was as fortunate as me" took on a brand new meaning for the singer. Vedder, a lifelong Who fan, was performing at the House Of Blues in Chicago opening up for the three surviving members of that legendary band, and would join them on stage later that night.

The $300 a ticket for general admission that was being charged that night was pricey, but few complained, as the shows (one Friday and one Saturday) were benefits for Chicago's Maryville Academy, a treatment center for phycisally, sexually and emotionally abused children. The Who's Pete Townshend has been performing benefits for the Academy annually for the past few years, and a recently released live album recorded at one of his benefits features two duets with Eddie Vedder.

This year, however, Townshend decided to up the ante by playing with his two surviving Who bandmates,

singer Roger Daltrey and bassist John Entwistle (backed up by Zak Starkey on drums and John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards). For his part, Vedder opened the show backed up by his friends from C Average, with whom he performed earlier this year at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. Vedder also played with C Average as a Who tribute band in July.

Vedder and C Average seemed less well rehearsed than at their last high profile gig at the Tibetan Freedom Concert. The singer chalked that up to the fact that while C Average were on tour in Texas, they were "minding their own business, and while they were minding their own business they were busted for smoking pot." This, he explained, accounted for why they didn't get together in time to have an ample amount of rehearsals.

However, if the band wasn't tight, they made up for it with their enthusiasm; Vedder told the crowd that "with all the things happening in the world, there is no place in the world

I'd rather be than right here." He also joked that Townshend said they could open the shows, "but only if you make us look good."

The group's set resembled their Tibetan Freedom Concert gig, as well as the club shows that they played over the summer. "Wishlist" was the only Pearl Jam song that made their set, although they did cover J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers' "Last Kiss," a song Pearl Jam originally released as a fan club only single, and which went on to top the pop charts. Also making the Friday night set list was a cover of Arthur Alexander's "Soldier Of Love," the B-side to the "Last Kiss" single. Friday night also saw the band play the Motown chestnut "Leaving Here," which the Who covered in 1964 when they were known as the High Numbers, and which Pearl Jam recorded three decades later for the "Home Alive" benefit CD.

The remainder of Vedder's set featured covers both well known and obscure, including the Mono Men's "Watch Outside," the Police's "Driven To

Tears," the Talking Heads' "Love/Building On Fire," Little Steven Van Zandt's "I Am A Patriot" and two songs by Dead Moon, "Diamonds In The Rough" and "Running Out Of Time." The Who spent each night blasting through a set of classics and more obscure songs, veering from the formula of their 1997 and 1989 reunions, each of which saw the band concentrating on their conceptual works, "Quadrophenia" and "Tommy," respectively. Among the songs making the Who's set list this time around was "I Can't Explain," "Substitute," "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," "My Wife," and "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand."

The band also performed, for the first time, "After The Fire," a song which Townshend had written for one of Daltrey's solo albums following the original breakup of the Who in the early '80s. They also included Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line" and "Ring Of Fire" tucked into an extended version of "A Legal Matter." Each night finished with Vedder and the C Average guys joining together with

the band for "Let's See Action," a song originally released by the Who as a single in 1971.

The concert, which all the musicians seemed to enjoy as much as the fans did, set the stage for a new period of productivity by the members of the Who, who have been eyeing an album and a return to the road in 2000. Meanwhile, it seems likely that Vedder may spend his next Pearl Jam break with the C Average rhythm team, although the year 2000 looks to be another Pearl Jam year, with the band readying their next album, and reportedly planning a world tour.

-- Brian Ives