the who. the halftime show.
The official Caryn L. Rose line on the Who’s Super Bowl performance is this: I do not think it was terrible.
Let’s get this out of the way: It didn’t top Bruce. It didn’t top Prince. It didn’t top U2. But it did make me cry, just a little. I cried because I love/d them. I cried because they are old. I cried because I am old. I cried because the music of my youth is dying. I cried because Roger can’t go onstage shirtless anymore. I cried because John is dead, because I never got to see Keith, because there is no one else like them, no one who comes close to them.
I know I am not objective. I know I am emotional and irrational and have a stormy history with this band. But they were the first band I loved insanely. I do not have to be objective.
The performance tonight was a rock band – one of THE rock bands – playing onstage. Just playing. In a few years we will all forget what that was like, a band, just playing onstage, without gimmicks or theatrics. There are no more bands like this, who form when they are young and stick together 20, 30, 40 years. Consider that U2 is the only band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that still has their original members. Think about this. It was not the Who at their best, but this era is not them at their best. They are old. They have aged. Roger’s voice, which he coddled for years, has not held up. At least he has learned to not to try to hit the notes and miss them, he has figured out how to modulate around them and still deliver a solid performance. But it is not power screaming Roger Daltrey, and if you are looking for that, you are better off watching The Kids Are Alright on repeat. You don’t go for that. Or if you do, you’re not very smart.
You go for the emotional heartstrings being played, and they can still do that. I got goosebumps when “Won’t Get Fooled Again” started. I got goosebumps during “Listening To You”. If you didn’t then these aren’t your songs, this isn’t your band, you don’t care about rock and roll and it’s just background music to you. And I get that this might not be relevant to you. But there’s an awful lot of people to whom it was relevant. Those people are also getting old along with Roger and Pete and in a few years you can have Lady Gaga doing the halftime show for you instead.
Pete, Roger, Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Rabbit Bundrick on keys. Simon Townshend filling in the gaps (who I have forgiven previous transgressions due to his work with Roger on his solo tour). This is the Who core right now, and it is sad in a way that I was relieved that it was the people I already know and not someone new. I liked the staging, I liked the clear drums with the target cymbals (okay I LOVED the target cymbals), I liked how I was not seeing the camera cut to audience plants who have no idea who this is or have never seen the band before and could mostly care less. The connection with the audience was a big part of what the Who was, but you weren’t going to get it here. The lighting and setup were topnotch.
Zak was remarkably restrained and so was Pete and I think that put a damper on the energy. Not enough guitar, too much keyboard in the mix. When Pete did play, it was fantastic, melodic, compact – which is a freaking challenge in a medley of songs that don’t easily lend themselves to being medley-ized, in a band that was never about brevity (remember Pete in TKAA going on about Kit Lambert giving him a hard time about songs being more than “2 minutes 50”). But the BIGGEST problem, hands down, was the fucking JACKET. For years we have all gotten on his case for his need to wear expensive suits onstage, which he then spends the entire fucking show moving and adjusting and it gets in the way and causes him to miss solos and notes and windmills. WHY ON EARTH DID YOU DECIDE TO WEAR IT TONIGHT? “It’s just not windmill conducive,” to quote a friend texting me after the show.
Roger hit the scream on WGFA and that was all that mattered. The look of relief on his face when it was over showed just how nervous he was.
I haven’t seen them live since the tour when John died, out at the Gorge, when I yelled at the thunder for taking the Ox from us. I wasn’t going to see Roger on the most recent solo outing until a friend gave me a free ticket. I will probably go this time around, because this time will likely be goodbye.
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