Monday, February 8, 2010
Although The Who’s live concerts in recent years have been spotty, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band delivered an engaging, if slightly sloppy, performance at halftime of Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.
The English rockers. led by guitarist Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, squeezed bits of five classic tunes into a 12-minute medley at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
The National Football League set the 46-year-old band up with a flashy, round stage in the center of the field, featuring lights and images emitting outward toward the stadium crowd as the group performed.
As fireworks erupted around the stage, the band opened with “Pinball Wizard,” from its 1969 rock opera, “Tommy.”
Daltrey, 65, looked sharp in a striped jacket and glasses, but he skipped all the high notes in the famous song.
Townshend, 64, the other surviving co-founder of the band, looked grizzled in a fedora and sunglasses. But he played well on his Fender Telecaster throughout most of the mini-set.
Backed by drummer Zak Starkey, son of former Beatle Ringo Starr, as well as bassist Pino Palladino and a second guitarist, The Who then played part of one of rock’s great anthems, “Baba O’Riley.”
Starkey, who has done a great job filling in for the late Keith Moon, bashed his drums, Townshend pumped his fist and Daltrey sang his famous line about a “teenage wasteland,” drawing a roar from the crowd. Show producers unleased an impressive array of lasers.
As Daltrey played a harmonica solo to segue into the next song, it became clear that The Who was going for a more rootsy, less-polishedperformance than recent over-the-top Super Bowl turns by Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Paul McCartney.
Townshend threw down some nasty guitar work to launch “Who Are You,” used as a theme for the “CSI” television series. The guitarist went into a big-time version of his famed “windmill” move, bringing his arm around repeatedly to strike guitar chords.
The band then sampled the short “see me, feel me” segment of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from “Tommy” before Townshend stumbled on the intro to another anthem, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Nonetheless, the crowd roared as the song unfolded.
Strobe lights and lasers flashed as The Who’s performance drew to a close.
Given its uneven live shows in the past several years, the Who’s Super Bowl performance was an enjoyable, if not overwhelming, surprise.