The Who? Speak Up Sonny, I Can’t Hear You

| Cadenza Reporter
(Lionel Hahn | Abaca Press | MCT Campus)

(Lionel Hahn | Abaca Press | MCT Campus)

I love the Who; I hated Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show. It’s not easy to say, seeing that I have been listening to The Who since before I could read. They were the first band that I ever listened to. I still clearly remember my dad introducing me to their music when I was just a child on a Sunday afternoon, and he was going through his old vinyl collection. “Tommy” is one of my favorite albums of all time, and the deceased drummer from their early days, Keith Moon, is one of my favorite musicians ever.

That said, I have to say that I did not enjoy The Who’s performance on Sunday night. First of all, you can hardly call them The Who anymore when two of the original band members have died and been replaced. But lots of classic rock bands have made over their lineups since their beginnings, so that quibble alone is not enough to make me dislike the show as a whole.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEDmZPx-FMg

My main issue with the performance is simple: The band is simply too old. They can still rock harder than many of the bands today can—and Sunday’s performance is a testament to that—but that does not change the fact that they are too old to be playing at the most-watched television event of the year. As great as The Who were, they are no longer relevant in today’s world of pop culture. I would much rather see young musicians from my generation, like Lil’ Wayne or The Kooks, do the show than The Who, simply because it makes more sense for the world of today. Can you imagine our parents sitting around and watching Bing Crosby or a swing big band headline a Super Bowl halftime show when they were in their late teens or early 20s?

(Lionel Hahn | Abaca Press | MCT Campus)

(Lionel Hahn | Abaca Press | MCT Campus)

My issue with the halftime show goes back farther than this year. Since Janet’s fateful nipple-popping wardrobe malfunction of 2004, all of the halftime performers have been aged rock stars from a different era of music, as if the Super Bowl halftime show committee has decided that hip-hop and country are not America’s music. Also, the idea of bringing Mick Jagger or Prince on stage to restore a wholesome image to the event is preposterous, given the sexual histories of the men. I’m not saying that there is no place for legendary performers at halftime, but there should be a younger performer from the music world of today on stage to bring balance, like in 1998, when TLC, Aretha Franklin and the Temptations all shared a stage, showing a continuity in the soul genre throughout time while giving a venue for younger musicians to shine.

All in all, The Who did a mediocre job bringing energy to Sun Life Stadium on Sunday night. They rushed through their classics and left little room to jam. The most interesting and inspirational part of the show was the light show, which at least matched the hype of the event. The guitarist, Pete Townshend, looked like a caricature of his younger self, doing windmills at every chance he could, while the singer, Roger Daltrey, struggled in his attempts to match his patented growl. And it was sad to see him looking more like my great aunt than the sex symbol that he was in the 1960s. In the future, I would like to see the halftime show give the rising young talent a shot at the national stage—the energy that they would bring would only make them more relevant while appealing to a wider group of viewers.

  • Crystal

    Do you really think anyone our parents age would really enjoy Lil Wayne or the Kooks? Remember-our age does not comprise the majority of Super Bowl watchers, meaning “our” music would probably not be as relevant to the majority of viewers.

  • WG

    Ethan, good piece; i agree with your analysis of Pete Townshend’s windmilliing his way through a less-than-mediocre guitar performance. But I thought Roger Daltrey sounded quite good. Personal taste, perhaps. I certainly wouldn’t call this act The Who, though.

    You talk about younger acts and I hope you’re referring to the amount of time these acts have been producing music, rather than the age of the players. I would guess that as an artist ages they become more insightful, not just older. So please don’t go knocking us fogies in our 30s and 40s. We read pitchfork and go to shows, too.

    To your point about how you couldn’t imagine your parents sitting through big band acts during the super bowl, well, I wish there had been something that entertaining on when I was in my teens and early 20s. We had to endure the most gawd-awful dreck during halftime. Imagine the Lawrence Welk Show in marching band format. Halftime used to be when you went to the bathroom, went out for more beer, etc. So consider yourselves lucky to see anything interesting, even if it isn’t the greatest.