Who are they? A former supergroup at the Super Bowl with still a bit of super left.

I was never much of a The Who fan.. Sure, I enjoyed the songs I heard of theirs, but I’ve never bought an album, wouldn’t pick one out of someone else’s collection to play, and never would’ve bothered going to a concert…until some buddies at work in the late ’80s cajoled me into joining them for the 25th anniversary reunion tour.

Now, by then, the band was already getting on in years. Roger’s voice was scratchy and weaker than in the old days. His belly not the taught, flat package of his youth. Pete’s hearing was failing, and in Tacoma a couple nights before, while performing that crowd-pleasing windmill of his, he pierced his picking hand with the whammy bar of his guitar. I’ll say this though, Peter Townshend is a showman. Sporting a hand that looked to be not much more than a club with a guitar pick duct taped between thumb and fingers, Pete spent the night playing rhythm on an acoustic guitar while some hired gun got to run off with all the juicy electric lics. Pete even did some windmilling — no wammy bar on the acoustic, mind you.

A few songs into the set, though, I realised I’d just heard four classics of rock music. As was the fifth. And the sixth. Every song in their playlist was probably going to be on the playlist of every music teacher who ever taught music history.

I’m still not much of a fan. Still haven’t bought an album, though I have bit-torrented a couple of greatest hits collections. Of the 23 Who songs in my iTunes folder, just half of them get more than 3 stars. But I’m not going to argue their place in music history, or their right to be there.

Still, I was prepared to mock their half time appearance at today’s Super Bowl. Roger’s voice is weaker than ever, and he just doesn’t move the way he used to. Pete’s a bit hunched over, has a hard time holding the sustain on his singing notes, and is often pitchy (probably due to not being able to hear his own voice). And yet…they still got that something. It doesn’t have that effervescent youthful energy anymore, but they still got something.

Maybe if they stopped singing Baba O’Riley (Teenage Wasteland), they wouldn’t seem so old?

The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let’s get together
Before we get much older

Nah. If they ever stop singing that, the’ll stop being The Who and probably keel over and die.

4 Responses to “Who are they? A former supergroup at the Super Bowl with still a bit of super left.”

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  1. Gary says:

    Like you, Patrick, I was never into The Who, but unlike you, I never grew to appreciate their music. The only song of theirs I like is ‘Substitute’ and that’s because the local band in my neck of woods used to cover that one a lot. It surprised me that they were given the gig at the Superbowl. Given the many acts which are currently very much top of mind/top of charts, I wonder why? Was it a nod at the many baby-boomers tuning in and eager to dig into their wallets to buy the goods advertised throughout the telecast?

  2. Patrick says:

    It seemed an odd choice to me, as well. Perhaps there were ‘wardrobe malfunction’ fears if any of the younger stars were up there?

  3. Stephen Guy says:

    Pat,
    Also, my brother, never really a big fan, although lots of friends of mine from that era were. Cuts I would still bother to sit and listen all the way through today would be: “Who Are You”, “Pinball Wizard” (always liked The Who’s version better than Elton’s). Sure, they had some talent. The Drummer? One of a kind… but never my cup of tea; prefer a rock drummer like Simon Phillips, Bill Bruford or Phil Collins. “Who Are You” has a nice piano bridge theme near the middle that gives the piece a ‘breather’ between the typical dynamic smashing chords and bash about drumming.

    • Patrick says:

      Steve! Welcome. my brother.

      Add to that drummer list… Neil Peart. :)

      Geez. Three of us largely in agreement about The Who. Generally, can give ’em a pass.

      A few songs I do really kinda love: Baba O’Riley, Love Reign O’er Me, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Behind Blue Eyes.

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