Super Bowl XLIV halftime show: Were the Who football wizards?

Why did I volunteer to write about the Super Bowl halftime show? Because I was looking forward to making some cheap gags about old age, decrepitude, and people who threaten to leave us before they get old, and yet never do.

Alas, Brett Favre didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. So, let’s talk instead about The Who, the latest in a now fairly long line of veteran rockers entrusted with the task of entertaining an audience of millions without repeating Janet Jackson’s mistake of flashing too much flesh.

Actually, it could be argued Who guitarist Pete Townshend failed on the latter point given he repeatedly exposed his stomach as the band performed a set that included snippets from “Pinball Wizard,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” But mostly it seemed to me that the whole shebang served as a reminder of what a terrific live act they remain, as well as freshly proving there are few things cooler than drum cymbals decorated in a “mod”-stylee.

What about you? Did the British legends talk to all the generations out there? Or was this just The Who by the numbers?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (354 total) Add your comment
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  • Jay

    Which “The Who” did you watch? That was the most pathetic musical display I have seen. After that performance I’m wishing they would have died before they got old.

    • Stephen

      I disagree. I was happily surprised they still had it. If you can still lay down that much raw energy in your 60’s . . .

      • jb

        Are you basing your opinion based on what you saw tonight or on nostalgia and sentiment?

      • BT

        Daltrey’s voice was very good, far better than I expected. They put on a good show. Not the best I’ve seen from them, but very respectable. A-OK.

      • WTH

        I have to agree with MacPhail here.

      • harry

        long live the who!!!!!

      • Ashley Simpson

        Suprised they still had it?? What were you people watching when you say they sounded great?? They lip synched everything…and poorly… Townsend’s windmills were not in synch… the NFL played you morons for simpletons and they were right…

      • J Russell

        BT are you talking about The who or NewWho (post entwistle/moon)? I think that this was one of the best NewWho performances but obs it’s not really comparable to the old or as I like ‘TrueWho’. Baba was tortured though.

      • Blue Silver

        I think having legacy artists entertain during the Super Bowl halftime show is a great concept. I would have hated a pseudo-teenybopper-disposable,bubblegum pop group, singer or diva take the reigns. That said, ‘The Who’ did not disappoint. These guys can still ROCK at 60+ years. It’s all about the music(and kick ass sound); and the fireworks and stage set complemented them nicely. I thought they ROCKED! Heck, they even placed 7th in the I-tunes downloaded albums list. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one that thought THEY ROCKED! :)

    • Derek MacPhail

      I agree with Jay. The Who should have passed on appearing at the Superbowl. The word that comes to mind is “pathetic” and “sad”.

      • JP

        The word that comes to mind is “pathetic” and “sad”.

        I hear that the ability to count is the first thing to go.

      • jared4ever


      • Brett

        Ashley, you’re clearly wrong. While I’m not sure Roger’s scream during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was entirely live, the rest of the vocals throughout the show were definitely live. I agree, the band sounded ragged, and Roger’s voice hasn’t been what it used to be for about three or four years now, but they still entertained me more than the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, or Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake.

      • sharon chrtistman

        Never did like anything by the Who except for the Tommy album. They look ancient and the show sucked. If you want rock and roll at the halftime show…get a band still worth listening to like def leppard or REO Speedwagon, get elton or billy joel, or ANYBODY but the Who! Who?

    • Menchy

      Agreed. Their performance was a shining example of why the Super Bowl needs to stop booking dinosaur bands. How much better would it have been to watch, say Beyonce, Lady GaGa, or Kanye West (say what you will about him, but he has a bunch of hits and puts on a great show). Heck, I would have rather watched Taylor “I Can’t Sing to Save My Life” Swift then that self-indulgent shouting.

      • Jim

        That would have been awful.

      • Menchy

        Although I loved the lighting. Whoever did that deserves a promotion. Again, imagine what they could do with someone who still has their voice.

      • jj

        Why not be brave and book a newer band like the Muse?

      • Barry

        Do you mean Lady Caca and the rest of the lipsynchers?

      • Rich

        I saw the Grammies and watched the train wreck that was Jamie Foxx, T-Pain, and Slash… followed by the beyond-off-key caterwauling that was Taylor Swift. I’ll stick with The Who, thanks.

        Don’t forget, the last couple times the Super Bowl tried to be “hip and current,” we got Britney Spears destroying an Aerosmith classic and Justin T exposing Janet’s breast in front of millions.

      • Menchy

        I think you’re thinking of Britney Spears. Lady GaGa has never lip sync-ed in her entire career.

      • Paul

        I can’t think of any new bands that would go well with football. The Who is one of the greatest live bands ever and they did pretty well tonight.

      • Big T


      • The Truth

        Well if this generation of acts can actually be trusted to do a family friendly show then we can have younger performers. Even back when the Who was not family friendly they knew when they were in that environment and what was acceptable. That is lost on today’s acts.

      • dave

        Lady gaga is the worst musician in the history of music, you honestly just compared The Who, widely regarded as one of the greatest bands ever, to lady gaga… what a moron

      • Bill

        Lady gaga/kanye r u kidding? They could both set the record for the worst half time show ever easily.

      • Brett

        Beyonce, yes. Kanye or Lady Gaga, no. We want TALENTED people, not self-important loudmouths or circus oddities.

      • wakeforce

        How about booking a younger band like Kings of Leon. The under 50 crowd were probably getting snacks when the old guys showed up.

      • Muffy

        I wish they would start booking young acts again! Everybody has seen a breast! FYI: I respect Legends, but I won’t the young folks back.

    • Andy

      I also agree with Jay. That was the worst halftime show in awhile. They were old and….just weird and just just seemed like one big ode to all CSI shows.

      • Katiebox

        Yes Menchy! The lights were awesome (my brother does them!)

      • Heather

        Exactly Andy,
        The big joke at the party I was at:
        “The Who…brought to you by CSI, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York”
        Blatant cross-promotion anyone?

      • A L Dreyfuss

        Do you actually listen to The Who? Are you aware that CSI uses their songs for their show. Just because CSI appropriated them doesn’t mean they’re no longer good songs.

      • Tyler

        The Who were terrible. Yes, they were ONCE great live, but not anymore. Pete had some recorded parts (notice he turned down the volume knob when he was swinging his arm).
        Overall, these classic rock bands are killing the halftime. Honestly, people need to get over themselves and allow contemporary bands to play.
        Muse would be amazing. I mean, The Rolling Stones, The Who, etc.. dull boring.
        Just because they were ONCE good doesn’t mean so anymore.

      • Quirky

        Yes, Dreyfuss we realize that, but the point was the whole thing seemed more like a giant ad for CSI then a concert. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually CBS’s plan all along.

      • canthardlyreadit

        Quirky that’s a really good point. Plus Roger Daltry did do a guest spot on CSI. Hmmm…

      • Blue Silver

        Obviously, people will BITCH about anything and everything! No matter the band or singer that took the stage people would have bitched about it, regardless!!!

    • Emerson

      I agree. They lost whatever they once had. It should never be displayed again in any forum.

    • Big T

      If you still have it, then use it. I thought they were terrific.

    • bob

      I agree. Daltry was in very poor voice. The bass player was non-existant but the drummer killed. (Zak Starkey)?

      • bootsycolumbia

        He wasn’t Keith Moon. That group wasn’t The Who without Keith Moon and John Entistle.

    • The Truth

      I thought they were good, granted they are well past their prime. But then again when you get to their age, rock as good you will not.

    • Sol

      I was surprised at how clearly Daltry was lip-synching.

      • jmd

        sorry, that was live.

        Besides, if they opted to lip-sync, they would have bothered to record a better vocal track.

      • Ashley Simpson

        “I’am JMD I am a tool” really dude are you that blind or just plain stupid…”that was live” 50,000 out of work comidiens and we get you…

      • Amelia

        jmd is not a tool. If anything, Simpson is.

      • Rick Riday

        Watch the YouTube part 2 at 2:48. Lip Sync is unmistakable as he sings “get on my knees…..and pray” Sad. -very sad.

      • Brett

        Does anybody else find it funny that the person so vociferously claiming that the vocals were lip-synched has given himself/herself the name of “Ashley Simpson”?

      • Sol

        Nope that was a lip sync — you can see it clearly — words are coming, but they don’t match his lips.

    • Arthur

      Would like to see your accomplishments thus far in your life compared to Daltry and Townshend Jay….much less what you could do to entertain 200 million people at 65.

      • wakeforce

        yes, let’s just give the old guys a pass!

    • DavyB

      This was the longest ad for the C.S.I. shows that I have ever seen on C.B.S!!!!

  • kailua

    Song selection: coincidence or timely message.

  • Kathy

    The Who were phenomenal! It’s easier to say when you were born the year they debuted and have been a fan for your entire life. Who was the drummer though?

    • Chris

      The drummer is Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s 44 yr-old son.

      • Heather

        Funny — I thought he was one of the members of Spinal Tap. Just look at the mullethead!

    • melissa

      How exactly is it that you’ve been a fan your entire life and don’t know who Zak Starkey is? Keith Moon died in ’78 & Starkey replaced him in the mid 80s.
      I’m 26 and I know that. You do know that’s not John Entwhistle playing bass right?

      • Big T

        Melissa you must not be a fan either. Kenny Jones was the drummer before Starkey joined them in the 90’s

      • John A. Miller

        Well Big T after Kenny Jones they had another drummer Simon Phillips for a while before Zac. He also played on the Townsend solo albums of the 80s.

    • Caleb69

      dude im like 14 and i know that

  • Suza

    A small part of me got chills, remembering these classics — but mostly watching The Who made me feel old; I’m 20 years younger than Roger Daltrey, and he was looking aged… *sigh*

  • vicky

    Thought it was awful-liked them years ago, when they sounded good!

  • motherbraggers

    Thanks for pointing out that today’s American idol child stars can’t hit high notes or stay on key.
    Roger Daltrey’s voice has been a rough mix his entire career, that’s always been the point. And at least Pete’s belly wasn’t hanging over his pants. They are amazing and since there aren’t any more stadium-capable rock bands, who else?
    Laurie Engel for Motherbraggers

    • Dave

      Taylor Swift is not from American Idol. She never would have made it far on Idol with her mediocre voice.
      National anthem singer Carrie Underwood, on the other hand, is from American Idol, and she did a good job tonight.

      • amf5960

        Carrie really did not sign the SSB very well. She forced her voice, and that caused her to go flat on several pitches. It’s a tough song to sing.

      • BT

        Eh? Taylor Swift has a phenomenal voice. Check out her recordings. If you’ve never performed live (and you haven’t, obviously), you might not know that not every performance goes perfectly. Sometimes, you can’t hear yourself in teh monitors, and if you can’t hear what you’re singing, you’re not going to sing on key. Taylor Swift is also a great songwriter. She’ll still be famous long after you’re gone, Dave.

      • erin

        BT, you’re an idiot. Don’t talk about things you don’t know anything about as if you were an expert. If you can’t sing live, you can’t sing, period. A real singer can sing in key no matter what the monitors are doing. And, she’s not a good songwriter either.

    • Kathy

      I agree. They filled STADIUMS all over the world! They can still rock in their 60’s! Music today (if that is what you want to call it)you don’t even need to know how to play an instrument except a record player! Find out what real legends are about!!!!! The WHO rocks!!!! Even in their 60’s.

      • J Kay

        Damn straight!

  • Kathy

    I think that’s what makes them a classic, kailua – that you hear them in 1970, 1984, 1997, or 2010 – and they make sense.

  • blackman

    “terrific live act they remain” What? This sh%t sucked. I thought all three CSI’s was coming on.

    • judy

      I agree. They need to call it. I’m sorry, but they were awful. I’m 63 as of today and the who were once good. I will listen to their cds for a long time, but today they should call it. Guys, you just don’t have it anymore.

      • JJ

        What’s a 63 year old man doing on EW???

      • bootsycolumbia

        JJ, I don’t think Judy is a man’s name. Also, you are an ageist tool.

  • Frank Gacioch

    The obvious comment would be “who were you.” They are not who they were then, and I really wonder why they wanted to do this. There are times when it’s perfectly legitimate to rest on your laurels if you have them – and they do.

  • motherbraggers

    Ringo Starr’s son Zak has been their drummer for years now; also sits in with Oasis. He plays like Moon, but more relaxed like his dad.

  • Liz

    The Who sounded horrible, and I LIKE The Who. It sounded like they never even practiced.

    • Gene Bertram

      That’s exactly what my wife said. I figured they just hired the same incompetent dolts who ran sound for the Grammys & they screwed this up as well.

      • jmd

        come on Gene… do you really believe that Pete’s bizarre performance could have been fixed by better mixing? The gents who do the SB are the best in the world at doing what is a really difficult gig.
        There really isn’t a knob to turn that can fix “old”.

  • Dougish

    once upon a time the Who spoke for me- now I shall speak for them..good effort guys! Hell..they STILL speak for many

  • Alan Schwarz

    I would’ve preferred some “I Can’t Explain” or “My Generation”. Instead we got tape loopy “Baba O’Riely” and the time wasting “Who Are You”.Also Pete seemed to be faking some of the guitar parts

  • Michael

    Who where you guys listing too????? That was pathetic!!! Embarrassing to say the least they SUCKED……….

  • Susan

    Ok I admit I’m old but I thought they were great – amazed they could still sound that good live after all these years.

    • xd

      All the guitar was pre-recorded, as was the electric piano. Drums and vocals were live. Too bad they weren’t pre-recorded either – The Who is over the hill. Pete the Pedo and Roger D sounded horrible. They must have missed the retirement notice.

      • BT

        EEEEEEHHHH!! Wrong. The guitar was live. What show were you watching?

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