The Half-time Show Recap:
Sponsored by Bridgestone Tires, the Super Bowl XLIV’s half-time show felt like a classic rock planetarium laser light show, featuring pyrotechnics and classic rock music by the “The Who”.
Once the spot light beamed the stage we saw that it actually was “The Who” performing, well two of them anyway: Roger Daltrey in jaunty pinstripes and Pete Townsend in a dark two-piece suit, which is odd until one realizes this was sort of like a funeral, in a way. The death of a rock band that used to sing about rebellion and how older generations just don’t understand. And now here they were, not understanding that singing their rock anthems at the Super Bowl just looks a bit sad.
The Who were following in the footsteps of such notable acts as Carol Channing with her tribute to Mardi Gras in 1970. Then came supergroup New Kids on the Block and their “Small World tribute” in 1991, sponsored by Disney (the broadcast was delayed by coverage of “Operation: Desert Storm”, which may have put a damper on that year’s festivities). Then in 1993 the NFL booked megastar Michael Jackson, on his Heal the World Tour. Jacko brought the house down, figuratively of course.
With that sensational half-time performance, the NFL broadcasters knew they had increased viewer ship, spanning a very broad demographic. The NFL continued to book big acts in order to sell exorbitant, inflated commercial airtime, knowing people would watch the half-time show, if not the game itself.
Then in 2004, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s “wardrobe malfunction” (AKA “Boobgate”) resulted in a $550,000 US fine from the Federal Communications Commission against its broadcaster, CBS. The NFL responded to “Boobgate” by ensuring future half-time shows would be less controversial, and therefore less exciting.
The past few years have been the who’s who of classic rock: Paul McCartney (2005), The Rolling Stones (2006), Prince, along with a University marching band (2007), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008), and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009), and now this year The Who. All these bands may have been controversial and exciting in their day, but are now seen as old, compliant, corporate rockers.
When The Who sang “Who Are You” (AKA, the theme song for CBS crime-drama CSI), I’m sure their statement was echoed by anyone under the age of 30 who happened to be in the crowd or watching at home. Sadly, there wasn’t any controversy, or excitement. Though Pete Townsend, with one of his signature windmill guitar moves, did push up his shirt and reveal some skin (hereby known as: “Stomach-gate).
With they played their 1971 hit “Baba O’Riley”, Roger Daltrey played his harmonica with the enthusiasm of a man who doesn’t realize he’s a senior citizen, while the ancient Pete Townsend shrilled, “Don’t cry, don’t raise your eyes, it’s only teenage wasteland”. Surely, this must be the same wasteland where former-teenagers, now known as “keen-agers” go to die.
The pyrotechnics ended. The house lights came up. But the crowd still had something to cheer about. The Saints won the Super Bowl, for the first time in their 43-year history.