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, with the exception of Eminence Front and Another Tricky Day, is mostly forgettable.

Rock’s most articulate talking head, windmill armed guitarist Pete Townshend – the groups mastermind – soldiered on in a most fickle way 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 abandon of The Ox.

In the their prime, they were rocks most powerful band. Forget about Cream, no trio could touch them. While Zeppelin outsold them and Bonham may be rocks 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 greatest songwriters and most introspective lyricists. His songs have endured and thanks to the hit CSI, Tony winning Tommy the Musical, and video game Rock Band, 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 some great live performances at several charity events including Live 8. Their touring band that features studio ace Pino Palladino on bass and Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) on drums has become a very tight unit of notable power. Starkey’s drumming in particular is a huge improvement over Kenny Jones’s 1-2-3-4. While this not the Who of old, it is an extraordinary live unit that has 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 awesome with the windmill fury of  bump…bump…baaaaaaa…bump!

The Super Bowl is on CBS Sunday.