[Rob In Stereo] Dropping the Ball


This year's Super Bowl halftime performance by The Who lacks the musical recognition of its predecessors.

The television event of the year is fast approaching: Super Bowl XLIV. Everyone knows that the Super Bowl is the annual perfect storm of sports, music, advertisements and pyrotechnics culminating in the highest-rated night of television of the year. Since Michael Jackson's famous performance in Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, the NFL has tried to book a currently popular performer or a music legend. The last five years have favored the latter, and the talent assembled has been nothing short of astounding: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Each of these acts actually made us care about halftime, usually the most boring part of the game.

This year, however, the NFL apparently has run out of superstars and has given us The Who.

There are a couple problems with The Who's selection. First of all, and most glaringly, half the band's original lineup is dead. They may have only been the drummer and the bassist, but they were the band's two most talented instrumentalists. John Entwistle's bass is the most recognizable instrument on their most popular song "My Generation," and drummer Keith Moon was indisputably one of the best drummers in rock history.

We still have the face (Pete Townsend) and the voice (Roger Daltry), but it's just not the same. The NFL might as well parade out the bastardized version of The Temptations that tours casinos every few years.

The second problem is that The Who is just not on the same level as their halftime predecessors. They only have one song, "My Generation," that anyone can legitimately claim to be recognizable from start to finish, and in recent years the band's music has become more prominent on television commercials than on classic-rock radio. Just off the top of my head, "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Happy Jack" and "Who Are You" have all been used in this capacity. However, these are inevitably 30-second clips—essentially iTunes samples. Will this lead to them considerably abridging their songs? Will the prolonged synth pulsation in "Won't Get Fooled Again" be trimmed or done away with entirely in order to get to the iconic ending?

The NFL has missed an opportunity to give us the greatest halftime show ever. In honor of Michael Jackson's death, they could have put together a tribute for him with popular artists from today and from the past. What artist is going to turn down an opportunity to commemorate Michael Jackson on the biggest stage possible? Imagine the lineup that could have been: Stevie Wonder singing "I'll Be There"; Justin Timberlake singing "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" (provided he's allowed near halftime shows again post-Nipplegate); and, most tantalizingly, the talent organizers could have arranged for an updated version of "We Are the World."

Instead, we'll watch Pete Townsend, Roger Daltry and two strangers slog through songs that half the audience will know only as commercial jingles.

I think I'll make a beer run.


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