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Roger Daltrey leaves Teenage Cancer Trust with impressive achievement – ​​review

In recent years, Roger Daltrey has become a “divisive figure”. Yes, he was optimistic and belligerent in his misguided support for Brexit, but it’s impossible not to love him. Not least because he was the ringleader, curator and driving force behind the Albert Hall Teenage Cancer Trust’s annual shows for over 24 years, performing more than any other artist – both alone and with The Who – and contributing to 32 million to raise pounds for specialist NHS units to care for young sufferers.

Before Daltrey finally retires from this selfless role tonight, he performs one final “Ovation” show, accompanied by a selection of artists whose performances he has persuaded himself to perform over the years. “This ovation goes out to all the unsung heroes, to all the people who were there unconditionally,” he says, moving onto a “bloody death trap” of a stage at the opening of the evening. However, aside from the cast of teenage sufferers and survivors who make several moving performances, most of the accolades go to the leading man himself. Throughout all four hours of the show, the evening’s stars reminisce about Daltrey’s influence and rugged magnanimity as they in pre-filmed messages Paul McCartney plays him a four-second song called “Thank You Roger.” and Steve Coogan describes him as “a good guy” – and The Who as “The Kinks for Welders”.

The night starts strong. “We are the warm-up act,” announces Paul Weller, preparing with his band sitting on chairs for a first half hour full of pastoral folk ballads, country blues and – no doubt to the confusion of everyone who last saw him have – before ’77 – rounds of bongo and jazz flute. It’s a graceful if surprisingly primal performance for an artist in the midst of one of the most brilliantly experimental late-career runs this side of Bowie, and as “Wild Wood” creeps out of the undergrowth into quiet awe, the tone is impeccably judged.

Weller apologizes to Pete Townshend for “stealing all his songs for my first album” and invites Daltrey to a cover of The Who’s “So Sad About Us,” which they didn’t have time to rehearse: “That does the fun!” Daltrey beams. A similarly crisp and up-tempo “That’s Entertainment” inspires pity in anyone who has to follow it, especially when it’s Kelly Jones, the king of beige commercial rock from Stereophonics. A solo artist and typically tortured, Jones reaches for the heartstrings but only occasionally manages to pluck; “You’re My Star” touchingly revisits his own family’s battle with cancer. Otherwise, his between-song stories about buying his wedding suit from Weller and taking him to the first TCT gig in Noel Gallagher’s Rolls Royce are far more interesting than dull, oversold fare like “Maybe Tomorrow.”

On the subject of reduced soul exposure, Jones could learn a thing or two from Eddie Vedder. Even though the Pearl Jam guitarist sits in the chair with the demeanor (and pork pie hat) of an unassuming folkie, there’s an inherent dynamic in the songs (both his and Pearl Jam’s) that he enjoys today evening whipped up to the bone of country punk. He even throws a bit of “Pinball Wizard” into “Far Behind” and just barely gets away with it.

Vedder also proves to be a master of changing tempo. It’s a poignant moment when he introduces Glen Hansard of The Frames on a cover of Jerry Hannan’s depressing “Society,” as is when he invites his daughter Olivia to provide a harmonious counterpoint to his granite-colored mine voice on “My Father’s Daughter.” He then ends his set by thrashing around on his acoustic guitar during “Porch,” slamming it on his chair like it’s all gone. Now we truly are among the titans.

Sometimes two at once. “When I saw you up there, I thought, ‘Who is this golden god?'” says Robert Plant, catching Daltrey walking off stage to tell him what an inspiration the early Who was. were for him when he was still developing 16 years old. It’s the classic rock equivalent of the Two Spidermans meme. However, Plant’s performance with his new band Saving Grace portrays him as more of a demon than a god.

Saving Grace perform menacing, mysterious folk songs and covers steeped in the elemental mythology of the southern swamplands. The kind of songs where a banjo player gets his own podium center stage, and the main lyrical takeaway might be, “Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.” As Plant weaves beautiful, lovelorn harmonies with co-vocalist Suzi Dian, will “As I Roved Out” attacks with slasher flick guitar riffs and Low’s “Everybody’s Song” becomes obsessed with ancient oriental drama. Meanwhile, staccato brimstone blues permeates Led Zeppelin’s “Friends.” Some say they saw the devil on the Dobro.

Paul Weller (left) and Roger Daltrey (centre) on stage during ‘Ovation’, a celebration of the Teenage Cancer Trust’s 24th anniversary, at the Royal Albert Hall, London

(Ian West/PA Wire)

“How can you top that?” Daltrey exclaims as he launches into his own final sentence, declaring, “I just want to have fun tonight.” And despite hearing requests for “Substitute” (“that’s the other band”) ) he takes a loose and free approach, covering Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” in the style of a Nashville Who, playing “Squeeze Box” bluegrass style – and roaring through Taj Mahal’s “Freedom Ride”.

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Daltrey’s powerful vocals steal the show, whether he’s turning his Leo Sayer-penned debut solo single “Giving It All Away” into a chilling anthem, embodying Celtic folk’s most heroic balladeer in “Without Your Love,” or tornadoes in with him Texas unleashes a final guest-accompanied rendition of “Baba O’Riley.”

“I’ve done the job I set out to do,” he says as lockdown expires and his role at the Teenage Cancer Trust shifts from PR to protectionism: “If the NHS collapses, I want to make sure this charity doesn’t give up. “Down with it.” And cement his reputation among rock’s holiest old dudes? That too is done.

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