Sunday, February 07, 2010

Who Dat

Who Dat thinkin' dey can play at halftime?

Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey should release an album called "Who Dat." It's a good question; as long as Moonie and The Ox remain dead, it ain't the Who.

I know more about music than about football (congrats, Saints; it's been a loooong time and your city needed this one) and I've been writing for literally decades about the long, slow sad decline of the Who. Unfortunately, I now have another reason to.

I almost got the sense Pete was undercutting Roger, perhaps because I'd seen a pre-game interview where Pete said he'd have preferred to do a couple complete songs but Daltrey had pushed for the medley approach. Which wound up being an intro from "Pinball Wizard," virtually all of "Baba O'Reilly," too much of "Who Are You" to get that CSI tie-in, a very very brief moment of "See Me Feel Me," and a compressed "Won't Get Fooled Again." Apparently singing the line "hope I die before I get old" was not seriously considered.

(I think they should have gone all pervy: "Squeeze Box," "Pictures of Lily," "I'm A Boy," and Wicked Uncle Ernie.)

So at game time, Daltrey was sticking close to the script (original phrasing but with the high notes kicked down an octave) while Pete was, er, fiddling about with the vocals. But Townshend still seems like he can play (I thought the whole thing would be pre-recorded, but they wouldn't have been so out of synch if it was).

Pre-recording, in fact, was one of the more unfortunate jarring aspects for me. They used the original synth tape from "Baba O'Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." As they always have since the songs were new, just like Queen walked off stage during Bohemian Rhapsody and played the tape of the Thunderbolt And Lightning Very Very Frightening Me part, and came back on stage for the Wayne and Garth banging their heads part. The synth parts on Who's Next were never really played on conventional keyboard in the first place. They were programmed and sequenced on one of the first generation synths full of dials and patch cords. (Making Van Halen's live cover, where Eddie played the Won't Get Fooled Again riff on guitar, that much more impressive.)

But by using the actual backing track of two of their greatest recordings, they invoked that glory and reminded us just how great they had once been--only to fall far short in their contemporary performance.

So halftime comes full circle: the over-reaction to the Wardrobe Malfunction leads to a classic rock approach with passable performances by Petty, McCartney and the Stones, and excellent performances from Prince and Springsteen (Bruce even managed to make the new song work last year). But Sunday, Townsend and Daltrey (I can't even call them by the band name) embarrassed themselves on one of the biggest stages possible. Time for the pendulum to swing back.

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