Pete Townshend - vocals, guitar; Emma Townshend - piano; Peter Hope-Evans - harmonica
In November of 1985, the Nevada del Ruiz volcano caused an immense natural disaster in Colombia, when it melted glaciers and caused catastrophic flooding that resulted in the deaths of over 25,000 people. Native Colombian musician, Chucho Merchan, with the help of Who guitarist, Pete Townshend, began organizing a charity event to raise funds for the surviving victims and to help raise awareness of their plight. Held at London's Royal Albert Hall the following February, highlights of this Colombian Volcano Disaster Appeal Concert were broadcast globally on the King Biscuit Flower Hour and featured many memorable performances. Among the more notable performers were Annie Lennox (who was not performing at the time due to throat problems), Mike Oldfield, Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde (then pursuing a brief solo career), and a rare one-off performance by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who had not been performing for some time. However, possibly the most memorable set of the entire event was delivered by Peter Townshend himself. Essentially performing solo acoustic, his set includes a surprise stage debut with his oldest daughter, Emma. She is featured on the first two songs of his set, which were followed by two classic Who songs stripped down to the raw essentials of just voice and guitar.
The set begins with the introduction of Pete Townshend and his daughter Emma to the stage. Townshend's Deep End band member, Peter Hope-Evans, who adds harmonica embellishments, provides the only additional accompaniment. They begin with the autobiographical Quadrophrenia track "I Am One." This is a delightfully engaging performance, featuring great emotionally-charged vocals. Townshend next delivers a surprising cover of the English Beat classic, "Save It For Later," fueled with Dave Wakeling's lyrical double entendres. This proves to be a perfect vehicle for Townshend's chunky rhythm guitar and Emma provides excellent counterpart on piano. Apparently Townshend created one of his trademark backing tracks for this performance, which fleshes out the three live musicians with a rhythm track of bass and percussion and even features an intriguing synthesized steel drum solo near the end.
The remainder of the set is just Townshend and his acoustic guitar, but that doesn't reduce the energy level one bit. He continues with a rip-roaring solo acoustic version of the quintessential Tommy track, "Pinball Wizard." Initially taking on both vocal parts, Townshend's unbridled enthusiasm soon compels the audience to help him out. One of the most delightful moments occurs when Townshend belts out the line "How do you think he does it?" to which the audience enthusiastically reply, "I don't know!" without any encouragement from Townshend.
This exchange continues when he closes the set with the classic "Magic Bus." Once again the audience is hanging on every word as Townshend establishes the Bo Diddley groove that propels the song along. By the end of the set, the entire audience has become part of the song with everyone unison singing "Too much! The Magic Bus!"
Short and sweet, this utterly unique set is not only a thoroughly engaging performance but also a spectacular quality recording.
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