For The Who, it's "right time" to play Super Bowl

Fri Feb 5, 2010 9:39pm EST
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Ray Waddell

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Hey, kids! Those "CSI" theme songs sure are catchy, right? The band that wrote them wants you to know there's a lot more where that came from.

In a melding of the quintessential British band and the most American of events, the Who will deliver about 12 minutes of glory Sunday (February 7) at the halftime show for Super Bowl XLIV on CBS. The band is the latest in a line of mostly boomer-oriented A-list rock stars to play the spectacle, among them Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.

But those acts had something to promote -- be it a new album or an upcoming tour. Outside of a greatest-hits album released in December and at least one upcoming high-profile performance, the Who doesn't have much to announce at the moment. "Totally original, as usual," Roger Daltrey says with a laugh.

"We've got an event (planned) for a charity that I'm a patron of, but that's about it. I know Pete (Townshend is) working on material. It's not that we're never going to work again -- it's just at the moment there's nothing in the pipeline."

Nothing, of course, except the chance to perform in front of an American TV audience of 100 million people with quick access to the Who's catalog of albums to purchase. History shows that artists who perform at the Super Bowl receive a noticeable bump in sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Last year's performer, Springsteen, sold 102,000 copies of his just-released "Working on a Dream" the week after he played; sales of his "Greatest Hits" album with the E Street Band rose by 66 percent. After performing in 2008, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "Greatest Hits" album sales rose by 196 percent the week after the game; in 2007, Prince's "The Very Best of Prince" jumped 147 percent.


Townshend says it just "seems like the right time" to play this biggest of stages. "It would be great to be in full touring harness," he says. "But it stands alone. We've often been on the road when the Super Bowl has been on, and I've felt a bit peeved that everybody's talking about the Super Bowl and not talking about the Who's next show. So for once we get the benefit of both."

Odd as it may sound to music fans, Who manager Bill Curbishley says that for many viewers, the Super Bowl could be the first time they see the Who perform. "There is a part of the Who audience that don't really know who they are," a circumstance largely due to the omnipresence of CBS' globally popular "CSI" franchise, which uses a trio of Who classics -- "Who Are You," "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley" -- for its theme songs. (In recent years, according to the Hollywood Reporter, "CSI: Miami" -- which opens with "Won't Get Fooled Again" -- was the most-watched U.S. TV series around the world.)   Continued...

<p>Members of the rock group 'The Who', Roger Daltrey (L) and Pete Townshend perform at a media conference in advance of their appearance in the half-time show in the NFL's Super Bowl XLIV football game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida February 4, 2010. REUTERS/Joe Skipper</p>