The Who makes the most of 12 minutes on the TV event of the year
At first Roger Daltrey didn’t want to play the Super Bowl at all. And Pete Townshend considered pulling out after they’d signed on.
But The Who took the stage in Miami after all, with Townshend dressed as a subway busker and Daltrey an English dandy, both singing live and loud. Not the best Who concert ever, but they certainly didn’t sink to the level of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS hawking cherry Dr. Pepper in a Super Bowl commercial.
But The Who acquitted themselves in a fun performance
An abbreviated “Pinball Wizard” quickly broke to the signature intro of “Baba O’Riley,” with Daltrey straining but largely winning his vocal battle with time and Townshend windmilling on cue. The latter still manages to make your spine tingle when he sings his lines in “Baba.”
“Who Are You” continues to be a winner in concert, its tales of debauchery still relevant three decades later. Was it the uncensored version? What do you think? “See Me Feel Me” got incredibly short shrift – what was the point?
All of it led up to “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” another Townshend classic that seems as lyrically plugged-in in 2010 as it was in 1971. The graphics were stellar, with windmilling animation in the light show as Townshend cranked out the chords of his greatest anthem. The relationship between Daltrey and Townshend has improved in the past decade, clearly visible onstage as they rose to the occasion.
So – can Daltrey hit the scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”? Not like he could back in the day, but fireworks and a lot of echo can cover a multitude of sins.
Technically, the mix was bold and clear, with Townshend’s live guitar cutting through (presumably) pre-recorded rhythm tracks (a shame, given that drummer Zak Starkey was animated and sharp).
It wasn’t their best-ever performance (see one of those below), but it rocked.
One question remains: Why is the Who doing this when there’s no tour or major release to promote?
Sure, you’re going to see an iTunes/Amazon sales spike on
their albums, including yet another Who greatest-hits package and a
greatest-hits live compilation. And “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Baba O’Riley”
and “Who Are You” are all used on CBS’ CSI shows, so there’s that tie-in (which
ensured all three would make the setlist, regardless).
But Bruce Springsteen did it last year when he had both a new album and tour to sell; The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and U2 have similarly used the Super Bowl to launch new things.
Turns out there was a tour – now scuttled. In an interview Friday on Sirius/XM satellite radio, Townshend revealed Daltrey’s initial reluctance and how it almost all fell apart. A tour was in the works, but no more.
“It was to set up a year where we were trying to do a number of shows that we’ve now moved away from,” Townshend explained. “We were gonna go on and do Coachella and the New Orleans jazz festival … but I was really worried about this project I’m working on. I’m writing something at the moment and it’s going very, very well but it’s incredibly complicated.”
So the plug was pulled on the live shows (which will likely be rescheduled for late ’10). But much as he wanted to, Townshend felt the band couldn’t pull out of the Super Bowl and a cancer benefit coming up in London.
It was another entertaining halftime in the wake of a few of them, but the Super Bowl has a problem. It is running out of top-level talent. The big question The Who’s performance may have left with the Super Bowl is “Who’s next?”