“No energy”, “anemic not anthemic”, “lame – killed classic rock overnight” – just a few of the howling insults hurled at The Who by early naysayers in the US media following their half-time performance at the Superbowl XLIV yesterday.
While most of the critics were united in what they didn’t want to see (old band playing the hits) they differed over what they did want to see (anarchic swearing, smashed instruments, obscure hits off old albums, unwelcome tracks of new albums). They’re missing the point. The Who are as establishment as it comes (and have been self-conciously playing the game since the sixties).
They’d never pull anything subversive in front of a 100 million strong crowd and neither would such an important and neurotically-staged event let them. And why would they, when their live proposition – and those tunes – are powerful enough?
Anyone who can gain four decades, lose two members and still put in the kind of performance that you can screw up into a low-res YouTube file, transmit thousands of miles onto the two inch screen of a guy bussing to work among London’s grim-faced commuters and make him want to jump down the stairs and howl in the face of the driver is alright by me.
Fireworks, lasers, a rotating stage and five hits that still sound massive (despite the fact three of them are hamered weekly on various versions of CSI, prompting one site to question whether the whole thing was a plug for the CBS show) – it beat the rest of the post-nipplegate bookings by a country mile. AND, true to The Who Sell Out form, you can download the set as a playable game for Rock Band.
Either way it was a damn sight less painful than this:
God Bless The Who.