I Thought a Live Performance Required People

The Who played at the Super Bowl. They sounded fine or great. Whichever. Considering all the keyboard/synth parts, which is a fair amount of their music, probably came from a MIDI track, the three live instruments (Guitar, Vocals, Drums… was there a bassist even there?) sounded fine. Roger Daltry sounded fine. He’s old. He’s not supposed to sound like he’s 30. Plus it’s arena rock. Townshend of course sounded fine. The stage looked rather amazing. Amazing! It did. It was cool. You know what wasn’t cool?

That there were no fans around the stage. No humans.

I thought Rock & Roll needed humans. Granted, having humans at the Super Bowl halftime rock show is like having mannequins of Native Americans at Wisconsin Dells: You expect to see them, it makes sense to see them, but they are fake. And that’s fine because Super Bowl halftime shows are fake. Let’s be honest, they suck. But I will say they’ve improved slightly in the past 5 or so years. U2, Prince, Stones, Petty, Bruce, all played their instruments live, a new trend in modern Super Bowl halftime entertainment. Kudos to them. The gig still sucks, but at least they made an honest attempt.

So this may not be The Who’s fault. Who knows how the live thing got designed? But whoever did it needs to be reminded that live music needs people.

What’s that? There were 85,000 people in the stadium? That’s true. I didn’t forget. They don’t count. They were all drunk, or drinking, or paid $1,548 to be there and weren’t about to be bothered with whatever was happening on the field. They made noise, but you couldn’t see them. I work in theatre. A live performance doesn’t work without people. That’s called rehearsal. And no matter how much fun it is to be impressed with yourself, or conversely drown in your depression over how bad you are – whichever flavor of artistic self-identity you prefer – you always reach a point where you need an audience.

I wanted crazy, screaming, yelling, dancing, ugly, pretty, rowdy people, waving their hands in the air like they… You get it. Even if those people are paid, bussed in, choreographed, have to take out a certain color balloon at a certain time or walk to the 40-yard line with a red streamer on cue, I want to see them. Because then I’ll buy it. I’ll get on board with that kind of fakery. Because at least you’re faking a real thing. I don’t know what they faked. The Who in rehearsal? The laser light show at Adler Planetarium?

Come on Super Bowl halftime show. I want boobs. I want Bruce’s crotch hitting the camera. I want a close up of Bono showing us how he can take his sunglasses on… Or off. “No big deal. I’m a rock star. Sunglasses on… Sunglasses off. Sunglasses on. See? Cool.”

Go back to people. Fake people are fine. Remember, you are the Super Bowl halftime show and you suck. Always. Even when you’re good you suck. But just bring back the “fans.”