November 6th, 2011
04:26 PM ET
It was the stuff of rock and roll dreams - Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant and Dave Grohl headlining a private concert in someone's backyard in Pacific Palisades, near the Southern California coast. Among the 500 attendees at Saturday night's event? A smattering of doctors, socialites, celebrities and teenagers battling cancer.
"Thank you for coming," said Daltrey, as he opened the night's performances from a temporary stage. "It means so much to me, as you know."
Friday, the legendary Who frontman announced the launch of the Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program in Los Angeles. About 18 months from now, young people suffering from the disease will be able to come to a special wing at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where they'll find care and support tailored to their age group, in a setting that looks more like a hip boutique hotel than a hospital.
The program is the first of its kind in the United States, and builds upon 19 such cancer units founded by The Who in the United Kingdom. Daltrey says he owes much of his success to teens, and feels passionate about giving back.
His Saturday night set in the Palisades included some beloved Who songs, including "Pinball Wizard," "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley." Grohl joined Daltrey on guitar for a rockin' version of "Young Man Blues," then left the stage to make way for Daltrey's next duet partner - a man who had just ponied up six thousand dollars during a live auction for a chance to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer on the Johnny Cash classic, "Ring of Fire."
Robert Plant played a few selections from his debut album with his latest project, Band of Joy - but it was his re-working of three Led Zeppelin songs that had the crowd cheering. He opened his set with a smoking Americana-funk take on "Black Dog," sharing vocals with Patty Griffin. He later segued into "Misty Mountain Hop" and closed the night with "Ramble On."
Plant has been an advocate of The Who's cancer program since its inception 23 years ago in the U.K., where it's known as the Teenage Cancer Trust. Daltrey is looking to Grohl for leadership in the U.S.
"He's been a supporter of the Teenage Cancer Trust, and I'm hoping he'll become a spokesperson to keep the fire burning," Daltrey explained.
Grohl took the stage solo, playing three acoustic Foo Fighters songs - "Everlong," "Times Like These" and "Best of Me."
"Everlong" was a special request by 14-year-old Xylina Ramirez, who is learning to walk on a prosthetic leg while she undergoes chemotherapy for osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that usually develops during growth spurts in adolescents. She and some other teens in the program were posing for a photo, when Grohl happened to walk by.
"He said he hadn't decided on his set list yet, and asked if we had any suggestions," Ramirez recalled. "I said, 'Why don't you do 'Everlong?' I think it's one of your best songs."
Grohl took the teen's advice, starting off with "Everlong," which was released the year she was born.
"It was the most amazing thing," she said afterwards. "My mom said I almost cried - but I didn't."
The evening raised two million dollars for the Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program at UCLA. Ticket prices ranged from $2,500 to $100,000.
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