Ten years ago, I probably would have thought that The Who playing the Superbowl was the greatest thing ever. When I was a teenager, to me The Who were the greatest band ever. They were loud, violent in their performances, and Quadrophenia is a definitive album for the misunderstood teenager. Pete Townshend in his younger years had a magnetic presence on stage with his windmills and guitar-smashing, but he was still awkward.
At 28, the very things that made The Who great to me as a teenager, are the very things I don’t like now. Almost all of their songs are loud – there is very little variation in their songs. Even the (few if any) ballads are loud. Their songs don’t speak to me the way they did when I was younger. And most of all – I find them awkward. This isn’t to say that I detest them, but I hardly ever go back to them. And when I do, I only listen to a few of their songs. I find “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” bloated and boring. They may have some great songs, but there is nothing in the Who’s catalogue that is as transcendent as “A Day in the Life”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Which brings us to the Superbowl. I’m not suggesting that the performance will bad – The Who were always a great live band. I’d never deny them that. But their music is hardly party music. The Rolling Stones set contained “Start Me Up” – not one of my favorites but it’s a party song. Or in the case with U2, who played the first Superbowl after 9/11 – their music was perfect for a wounded nation. Last year’s performance by Bruce Springsteen was great. Not only was it musically fantastic, but even for his earnestness – Bruce knows how to bring in a party. Only Springsteen could have told a world-wide audience to “put down your chicken wings.”
Pete Townshend said that The Who’s set will contain bits of Tommy, “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. See Me, Feel Me? Seriously? Sure they might be their biggest hits, but will Tommy’s spiritual awakening connect with American audiences? I’m not so sure. Well, at least Led Zeppelin hasn’t reformed – then we’d have to put up with “Stairway to Heaven” or “Kashmir” at the Superbowl.