With Super Bowl Sunday nearly upon us, you really can't help but marvel at just how far the halftime show has come these past ten years or so. When the Who open for the Colts (as well as that other team) on Sunday, they'll follow in the footsteps of a who's who of superstar rock acts which in recent years has included no less than Springsteen, McCartney, Petty, Prince, U2 and the Stones. It's definitely become a prestige gig.
It's easy to forget that the halftime tradition actually began way back when with the cheery, whitebread pablum of Up With People. Back in those days, halftime meant either time to make a beer run, a potty run, or at the very least time to switch the channel over to the Lingerie Bowl.
At the same time, the NFL's decision to book mostly big-deal, classic rock acts in the wake of Janet Jackson's infamous "Nipplegate" appearance several years ago speaks volumes about just how safe rock has really become.
The Stones may have once danced with Mr. D and sang about starfuckers and cocksuckers, but these days they are as about as threatening as an old rerun of Leave It To Beaver, and inspire at least double the nostalgia value. Much as I hate to admit it, acts like these are in many ways a sort of Up With People for the new millennium. Even sacred cows like Springsteen and U2 have to admit that playing for the NFL is about as corporate as corporate rock gets.
With Led Zeppelin unavailable for bookings at the moment, the Who was the most obvious next-best choice for this year's big show. The perennial number three of the big sixties rock triumvirate along with the Beatles and the Stones, it was simply their turn. Well at least as long as a certain golden god of rock was busy playing bluegrass with Alison Krauss anyway...
Following Springsteen's halftime show last year won't be easy for Townshend and Daltrey either. The Boss pulled off the amazing feat of basically condensing his three hour rock and roll marathon and rock and roll revival meeting into the NFL's slotted fifteen minutes.
I don't expect the Who to suck. We're gonna get "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" just as we got "Born To Run" and "Glory Days" last year. Townshend will probably throw a few windmills up in there too.
But I also don't expect it to be great.