Chicago Sun-Times
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Super Bowl halftime with the (sort of) Who

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Notoriously tough on body and soul, football is a young man's sport.

Though fans who know their history honor the accomplishments of the stars of the past, they wouldn't want the New Orleans Saints to bring quarterback Archie Manning out of retirement for the Super Bowl, any more than they'd expect the Indianapolis Colts to despair because Johnny Unitas died in 2002.

Yet since the infamous "nipplegate" incident of 2004, the NFL has turned to an increasingly hoary roster of classic rockers well past their prime to crank out their dustiest hits during halftime--nostalgic blasts from the past in the middle of the game of the moment.

On Sunday, in the wake of Paul McCartney (2005), the Rolling Stones ('06), Prince ('07), Tom Petty ('08) and Bruce Springsteen ('09), Super Bowl XLIV gave us the saddest, most tired musical spectacle yet: the band that pretends to be the Who.

The Who hasn't really been the Who for 20 years now: Drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, and bassist John Entwistle passed away the same year as Unitas. Yet Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey endure under the corporate moniker with a group of ringers that includes Pete's brother Simon on second guitar, Welsh session veteran Pino Palladino on bass, Ringo's son Zak Starkey on drums and longtime sideman John "Rabbit" Bundrick" on keyboards.

Wearing a goofy hat and shades (at night), Townshend got things rolling with the ringing acoustic guitar chords that signal the start of "Pinball Wizard," though the band only gave the crowd in a Miami a taste of that anthem before shifting into "Baba O'Riley" ("teenage wasteland"--ha!). From there it was part of "Who Are You," an equally brief snippet of "We're Not Gonna Take It!" (the "See Me, Feel Me" section from "Tommy") and a big finale of "Won't Get Fooled Again."

The newest song on that set list was 32 years old; the oldest was 41. But it wasn't even the tunes' over-familiarity that was the biggest problem.

Townshend (64) and Daltrey (65) were woefully flat and way out of sync during the unison vocal parts, and they relied on empty theatrics to convey the musical energy of the Who when the Who really were the Who. But the lasers, fireworks, geysers of flame and an elaborate illuminated stage that put U2's current tour setup to shame couldn't disguise the fact that these were two grizzled old pros going through the motions for a high-profile payday, with barely a hint of the powers they possessed at their peak.

Somewhere between the pointless button-pushing and pop pandering of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake and the recent procession of sad old Hall of Famers phoning it in, there has to be a happy medium for Super Bowl music.

Heck, shortly before halftime, the NFL ran a self-promotional ad that tapped the Arcade Fire for its soundtrack--proving once again that the big game's commercials are often a lot more entertaining than what happens on the field.

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43 Comments

I'd like to see you write in your 60s...if you can still remember how to spell. Go a little easy on these guys. They've been rocking longer than you've been alive.

Don't group Prince in with the geriatrics. His was the best performance ever. To do so shows that you missed it or at least that you need to check for a pulse.
As for this The Who... The original was the most overrated band in rock history. And now they really are a sad mockery of even that.
Congrats to the Saints.

It was a wonderful performance. I enjoyed it a great deal! Your comments are without class and show a total lack of taste!

Who are you for saying they did a bad job. The Who are one of the best bands ever and rock stars do get older I hope you realize that. Give them a break Daltrey did a great job and is still singing in the right key, and Townshend always plays great guitar. It's a little difficult to play only portions of your songs when you're use to playing the full length of it so I wasn't surprised when they messed up. I bet you wouldn't be able to any of this shit when your 65.

Suck my d---, you mother---er!

You're a f---ing piece of s---!

Lick my a------ while I shoot a huge f---ng ---- -- --- all over your ugly f---ing face!

This article is trash. Just somebody looking to cut people down. The halftime show was great - The Who rocked. And, "proving once again that the big game's commercials are often a lot more entertaining than what happens on the field"? Are you really a football fan? Because from the sound of it, you really hate the super bowl...

I agree. I almost felt sorry for the Who, or what's left of the group. They have to realize it's time to hang it up.

I think you miss the point. Their alive! And makn' the effort. For us ol' guys I loved see'in um struttin and put out there what they could.

Face it . . . right from the start we heard Roger Daltrey unable to hit the opening notes of the song -- which was particularly evident in Baba O'Reilly . . . I think The Who were awesome in their day, and put on terrific shows, but this wasn't one of them. To say the least . . .

The Stones in '06 looked a bit old, but they were struttin' and working hard; The Who, alas, didn't -- and I was willing to cut them a lot of slack.

I predict that this year's show will be the end of the bands from the 1960's (and/or, the end of the bands comprised of 60-year olds). That doesn't thrill me (I'm in my 50's myself, and this is the music I grew up to, and still listen to), but I understand the need for a show with real energy. The Who just didn't have it tonight.

I don't think DeRogatis is being overly harsh, just overly honest.

The Who did not get paid for this performance. You need to check your facts before you write a review of the show. You called it a "high-profile pay day." Wrong.

Most of it was Pete's poor playing and they were out of sync as said. Roger didn't get his voice til the 4th song. All that said I'll take The Who over any of the current generation of "talent."

The Who are true legends and it was fantastic to see them perform. What a sad life you must lead to be such a sourpus about a great band putting on a great show.

Steve Dahl had you peg years ago as a hack! I saw The Who a few years back at the Sears Centre and they sounded great just like they did when I saw them in 1980 at the International Amphitheater. Obviously you have never been a fan of them and that's fine, but for one that has seen them a dozen times over 30 years I can tell you this, The Who still rocks!

Jim is exactly right. Townshend and Daltrey were WAY out of synch on the vocal harmonies. Daltrey has no vocal range left, and I read somewhere that Townshend's guitars were pre-recorded, presumably to facilitate his tired windmill act. And no, they don't deserve a break for being old. This is not kindergarten. There is no medal for participation.

They are not even the Who. They are the Half-Who. They should be called Daltrey, Townshend & the Fill-Ins.

The performance was an embarrassment, and it was obvious to everyone not wearing rose-colored Who-fanboy glasses.

You sir, are a douche. Sorry. Can't think of any other more appropriate word. You obviously didn't see the same halftime show the rest of the world saw. So, why don't you go put on your earpods, grieve about your sorry existence as a fat, negative, middle aged emo with a laptop, that vents because you can't even figure out how to tap a plastic stick so you can score points on Guitar Hero. Let alone have a clue how to play a barred E chord on a stratocaster. I'm sure nobody is going to be reading your drivel when you're 64.

You are just plain mean!!! I thought they were awesome. Show a little respect.

Your article is crap!!! The Who are one of the world's best rock bands, if not the best. These guys write their own songs, play real instruments and put together music, they are musicians!! and still kicking ass at 65!!! They've blown away Woodstock, The Isle of Wight Festival, Leeds, The 9-11 concert and countless many more. They are in my book, one of the finest. Congrats to Pete and Roger for rocking all these years, keep it up.

Dude, you are a total DICK. Get it "DICK"! The WHO sounded great and more so for the fact of their age. The crowd was singing it and they had good energy. If I was your boss I would CAN your Whinning ass fast. SISSY! Why don'tr you go bitch about something that is worth bitching about BITCH! Go take your skirt off and learn to be a man. How you like them apples. Your article sucks!

you are right on the money. Pathetic show

I nominate the Young@Heart chorus for next year's Superbowl. Too old for the wardrobe malfunctions that caused this geezer parade in the first place, and truer to their art than the Who Inc.

I think some of you are overlooking the fact that the network that aired the Super Bowl also uses many of The Who's songs for their television shows. While the band played on, the cast of all the CSI's should have been on stage doing a choreographed dance of some kind, that would have made the show more entertaining. Yeah, The Who did rock the 9-11 concert, but that was also 9 years and 3 original members ago. I think the medley idea was good, but overall I was disappointed and I do understand the age factor.

When will they start bringing in younger talent? Doesn't have to be obscene, it just has to be entertaining. I'd take a marching band performance any day, at least no one would be offended.

I grew up a huge Who fan. That Super Bowl performance was one of the worst performances I have ever seen on TV. I don't even know why they were selected, they have not done anything for a decade.

That show WAS pathetic. I love the Who and they are one of the greatest rock bands off all time but let's face it, their time was over years ago. Just because you are great in the past doesn't mean you are great in your 60's. I bet you CBS "Won't get fooled again"!

Are you kidding me!? The band's a hundred years old. At least they got out there and did their medley.

What were you watching. Great musicianship and beautifully crafted medley. It was a football game not something you put under a microscope.

I give them a B-; the band was a bit stiff at first and understandably so; 12 minutes isn't enough to get loose...
Speaking from my experience, most bands loosen up, get more fluid and cohesive as night goes along;

My Wife and I were smiling at each other w/ satisfaction watching my son dancing around w/ his GH guitar strapped on and mimicking Pete's windmill power chords!!

For "2 grizzled old pros" to be on their "A" game right out of the gate is askin' a lot. So please find a clue and show some respect.


THE WHO HALF TIME SHOW WAS GREAT...SURE THEIR OLDER & NOT ALL THE ORIGINAL BAND MEMBERS BUT HEY THEIR ENGERY & MUSIC IS STILL ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS OUT.. SO LIGHTEN UP... DON'T BE A HATTER..SMOKEM IF YOU GOT'M AND ENJOY THE SHOW

Looks like we're gonna be stuck with Mellencamp when the super Bowl is played in Indy. The Killers would be an awesome halftime band.

So I re-watched this today on YouTube. All the instruments seem to match up with the music, as do the vocals themselves, but his mouthing is way off at some points. I think Roger pre-recorded his vocals. Watch "Won't Get Fooled Again," his mouth is not saying what the words are. He is behind.

And this is coming from a fan of The Who, past or present. I've seen and heard recent live stuff, it can still sound great. But it breaks my heart to think they lip-synched.

I think there were several ways to look at the performance. Yes, compared to what they were 30-40 years ago, it was sad. Roger's voice range isn't what it once was and it's hard to jump around when your knees ache. So measured by that standard, maybe it was a disappointment.

But to their fans, the performance by The Who's Left was a great reminder of what once was. It brought them (the fans) back to their youth and it was music that still reaches through the generations. They have done a great job of keeping their catalogue in front of people in TV ads and shows. Remember the Hummer ad (I think) with "Happy Jack"? The problem with having a very young band is that no one over 35 will be entertained - they don't know the music and don't identify with it, especially since "Rock" long ago splintered into Heavy Metal, Punk, Ska, Hip-hop, etc. At least the younger viewers know the anthems of people like The Who, the Stones, Tom Petty, etc.

Was it sad? Yeah, in a certain way. Because it reminded us of what we have become or will become - old, with all its infirmities and failings. To The Who's original fans, it was like looking in a mirror. To the young and still immortal, it was a glimpse of what is to come. The Who once played at my high school (yes, $3.50/ticket - Shawnee Mission South, Nov. 1967), "Hope I die before I get old,...talkin' 'bout my ge-ge-generation..." Well, they have gotten old. We should all be so lucky. Strong and powerful in their 20's, they are still giving "Maximum R&B" in their '60s. They gave it what they had and that's all you can ask. I enjoyed it just the same. Rock will never end....

Long live Rock, dead or alive!"

C'mon Jim:

You're just looking for reasons to dump on them.

When did Townshend ever sing in tune?

I thought the half time show of the super bowl was not that bad. The Who did a good job. I would rather see the Who perform than Justin Timberlake and some teen bopper. Hopefully they can get Phish to perform next that would be pretty cool or Stevie Wonder. But I bet you they will stick to people such as Billy Joel or Elton John which are not bad but they should also get some bands who are main stream and Phish is one of them. They are one of the top grossing acts for a concert and their music is respectable and can sing and sound great. You should hear Phish sing the National Anthem. They sound awesome. How many people have you heard sing the National Anthem and sound awful and can not get the pitch of the notes? I can tell you this go on You Tube Phish sings National Anthem at a New Jersey Nets Basketball game on 6-12-03. They did a great job singing the National Anthem.

So I read this post knowing that the comments would be hi-freakin'-larious, as they always are when Jim trashes someone's favourite band...

But what caught me most by surprise was Erin F's comment...

PHISH?! REALLY?!


I was a huge Who fan back in the day, but since their first farewell tour back in 82 or so I have long thought that they were done. Based on musical output since then I think I am correct. They absolutely lost their edge when Keith Moon died and probably sometime before then. But I’m not trying to be one of those types who see the end in a band when they lose a founding member, But I’m also not the type to cling to a band forever based on their past performances. I still love and respect the old catalog, but I can see the decline on stage and in the studio. Way back in the late 70’s I thought they had lost their edge in the recording studio. The best Who record of the last 30 years was Pete’s Empty Glass in 1980. Sure live they were still a force, but a fading one who, in my opinion, have sunk further and further into parody each time they hit the stage. Sunday was no exception.

The songs, all of them were flat and uninspired. Perhaps it was the fact that the audience was so far from the stage, that was definitely a noticeable factor. But the Who are not a “greatest hits medley” type of a band. They need more room for their songs to come to life. That said, based on their last 30 years track record, I don’t think any amount of time on stage would have helped. That being said I was very impressed with the stage. As a visual it was pretty darned cool. I liked it even better than U2’s spaceship this summer. Overall though I agree with Jim 100% on this one, they should not have been out there.

Who are they going to get now? Who are the acts with a long history and a deep catalog? Elton John? Billy Joel? Mellencamp for Indy? How about ZZ Top for Texas next year? I really don’t know who they will choose but I till definitely be an older band with a wide fan base.

And for those of you seemign to get angry with Jim, It's his job to call them as he see's it, not to call it like you want him to call it.

What is the point of a columnist who is never interesting or original? We know you will pan rock acts that are past their primes. We know you like obscure bands that in your mind are better than the acts that are comfortable and familiar to older audiences. Why bother to write it again?
You could easily have written this before the halftime show (perhaps you did).
DeRogatis, you are essentially Jay Mariotti on a different beat.

The folks railing on Mr. DeRogatis here probably haven't bought a new record in 31 years. Let's move on, people. And I know Zach Starkey bears the name and all, but COME ON. Not even close to paying tribute to Mr. Moon. Simon Phillips is long tired of the smell of old men, I suppose.

One word, pussies: MASTODON.

The Who is not what they once were, understood. But, JIM - who do you think sets up the fireworks, the sh*tty light show, poor camera angles, or the awful medley of song choices? CBS and the NFL, not The Who. Couple that with your inaccurate reporting that they got paid and you have an article that wouldn't make it through a freshmen year journalism course intact.

Long Live Rock, and Long Live the Who, the best band ever.

"What is the point of a columnist who is never interesting or original? We know you will pan rock acts that are past their primes. We know you like obscure bands that in your mind are better than the acts that are comfortable and familiar to older audiences. Why bother to write it again?"

Well, I think you answered your own question. "panning rock acts that are past their primes." Youre admitting that these bands are past their primes... so what's the problem? I mean, what do you want?

Just give them a pass because they made good music 40 years ago? Be honest with yourself: The Who were a great band. Up until 1975. Now? They suck. It's not BECAUSE they are old. Plenty of old rock acts are still making good music to this very day. Bob Dylan. Neil Young.... well, that's all I can think of now. But you get my drift. Even then, both of them have made bad albums or had bad concerts. It happens.

A music critic isn't supposed to be a blind fan who gives artists free passes simply because they made one or two good records a while ago. He's just that. "A critic."

In fact, I'd venture so far as to say that real music fans don't give their favorite artists free passes either. I like the Who. "Tommy" and "Live at Leeds" are brilliant. This show, much like everything they've done since the late 1970s, sucked. It's just that simple.

Lighten up Jim! I have never been that much of a Who fan but, these "Old Timers" got up there and ROCKED! As bad as it was I thought it was better than most of the new garbage today.

Oh Jim. I enjoyed the show, but not as much as I enjoyed these comments. Don't be a hatter! LOL! Love & Peace from Hoboken.

I couldn't agree more- and it has nothing to do with their age. It has everything to do with a weak, uninspired performance, questionable sound, and mediocre, noodle-y playing. It simply was not very good, and there's no reason to feel the need to defend a mediocre performance just because ya love The Who. They deserve better than that.
Age? Whatever. Neil Young, Paul McCartney, and scads of excellent bands and artists in that age group have kicked my ass repeatedly and have in many ways improved with experience, have better than ever chops and can wipe the floor up with plenty of 20 somethings. Pete and Roger simply didn't do that last week. Look up ponderosastomp dot com if you want confirmation that talent can indeed be ageless.
It's nothing personal--no one can be great all of the time. Sometimes it just doesn't happen.
Thanks for calling it like you saw it Jim. Taste, standards and discretion are too often confused with harshness.
When you give too much slack to mediocrity, it is unfair to those who transcend it.

I don't care about The Who or the Super Bowl.

All I knoew is that Jim is gay and gay people are evil and evil people burn in hell!

Superbowl is the highest TRP rated trivia in the amercian television indeed there is been much talk about trivia was that the game did not sell out. Now, it's so popular the NFL never puts Super Bowl dozen of tickets on sale to the general public in the same way that seats for concerts and most sporting events are sold,some of them online as well.indeed it has been getting some very smart with now more international media coverage on it like some tops i find in dozen media so to increase the curosity of the game.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on February 7, 2010 7:56 PM.

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