Who at the Super Bowl

For many, the Who died when the wildest of rock and roll drummers, Keith Moon, died in 1978. Moon has proven to be irreplaceable, and the Kenny Jones/Warner Brothers period of the Who, which followed, except Eminence Front and Another Tricky Day, is mostly forgettable.

Rock’s most articulate talking head, windmill-armed guitarist Pete Townshend – the group’s mastermind- has- soldiered on inconsistently since. Stuck with severe tinnitus, he switched to acoustic guitar only for a tour or two, then back to electric. The blue-eyed songwriter has mounted several farewell tours, including the one that turned out to be the farewell for rocks’ wildest bass player, John Entwistle, in 2002. He, too, is irreplaceable; no one can or will play with the abandonment of The Ox.

In their prime, they rocked’ the most potent band. Forget about Cream; no trio could touch them. While Zeppelin outsold them, and Bonham may be rock’s greatest drummer, they never matched the improvisational fury of the Who. My Generation from Live at Leeds is a masterwork of group interplay, dynamics, and raw power. There is a precision in the Who that was lacking in other bands. This was because the musicians were certifiable inimitable musical geniuses. 

Bono said, “The Who created the model!” He’s right. No Who, no Zeppelin, no Clash, no U2, no Police, and on it goes. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members of the highest order.

Townshend is one of Rock’s most remarkable songwriters and most introspective lyricists. His songs have endured, and thanks to the hit CSI, Tony-winning Tommy the Musical, and the video game Rock Band, he has had a bit of a Renaissance. Who’s Next is one of Rock’s finest albums.

The Who recently released a pretty good collection of songs in 2006, Endless Wire. There have been great live performances at several charity events, including Live 8. Their touring band, which features studio ace Pino Palladino on bass and Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) on drums, has become a very tight unit of considerable power. Starkey’s drumming, in particular, is a vast improvement over Kenny Jones’s 1-2-3-4. While this is not the Who of old, it is an extraordinary live unit with one of the finest catalogs of truly iconic Rock and roll.

The question is, what will they play? One suspects they will play the CSI songs Who Are You and Baba O’Riley, at the very least. Rock Band favorite Pinball Wizard? Closing with Won’t Get Fooled Again would be excellent with the windmill fury of bump…bump… baaa aaa…bump!

The Super Bowl is on CBS Sunday.

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