MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Pete Townshend is used to playing in front of stadiums filled with rabid fans who know every note of The Who's songs. He didn't get that at the band's Super Bowl halftime performance, but he's OK with that too.
Townshend and bandmate Roger Daltrey performed a medley of some of their most famous songs on entertainment's biggest stage Sunday, including "Won't Get Fooled Again" during a 12-minute set that included a laser-lit stage and plenty of fireworks.
While the crowd was involved, and some held up their cell phones to illuminate the night as instructed by the stadium announcers, they were somewhat subdued, and was clear it was not a Who event.
Backstage after their show, Townshend laughed and said: "You know, you could kind of tell from the stage the crowd is really here for the game."
"It was nice for that reason. It was nice to feel a part of something and not having it all to be about us," he added. When it was mentioned that most rock stars want everything to revolve around them, he joked and said: "We're too far gone to care I think."
It was the first football game Townshend and Daltrey, both Brits, ever saw (Daltrey went after his performance to watch the game, which the New Orleans Saints won over the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17). Townshend said he was awed by the spectacle, and the sheer work of putting together the event.
"It's extraordinary," said Townshend. "You forget how big sport is and how every week it happens ... I'm not trying to be humble but we felt like a very small piece of a huge team."
The Super Bowl also saw the debut of a new remix of "My Generation" by will.i.am and Slash. It is available for sale on Amazon.com, will.i.am's dipdive.com and the Who's Web site, and proceeds will go to aid Haiti after the earthquake there.
Townshend said he was impressed with the remix: "It's actually very elegant, it's not gangsta," he said of will.i.am's rap on the song.
Townshend called his entire Super Bowl experience a success, despite protests by some children's rights advocates about his presence in the Super Bowl.
Townshend was arrested in 2003 in Britain as part of a child pornography sting but later cleared. He accessed a Web site containing child pornography but said it was for research for his own campaign against child porn. He was required to register as a sex offender, despite being cleared. Townshend said he has been a children's advocate for years and was abused himself as a child.
He had to address the controversy at the Who's Super Bowl news conference, and though he feels like the protests were "a bit of a cheap shot," he said it was "dealt with fairly elegantly in the press conference."
"I think if people don't believe, they fall on that side of the line, there's little I can do, but most people have been very kind, very understanding, and I know I did nothing wrong," he said.