UPDATE 2011: I used to look forward with eagerness at the Super Bowl Half Time Show. Janet Jackson, for a while, was the best thing to happen to them; it forced the NFL to actually pick great artists to perform, rather than whoever was topping Billboard at the time. Even actual classic rock musicians were forced to perform with pop that was not suited for their style (N Sync and Aerosmith performing together? Who thought that was smart?). I thought that this would be something to look forward to. But then the Black Eyed Peas were asked to perform. The groans could be heard from music lovers everywhere, but there is nothing that can be done. It seems that the Superbowl is back to highlighting terrible but popular pop music. None of the artists outlined qualify as that. Even if certain performers do not do a good job, I cannot call any of them horrendous. I use to think that this was a prelude to the future. Now, I suppose it is nothing but a time capsule. Well, I posted clips, so I hope you enjoy.
Since 2004, Super Bowl Half time shows have undergone a great resurgence. No longer focusing on throwaway pop stars whose careers have no longevity, the Half Time show has become a showcase of enormous talent featuring legendary artists. Some give incredible performances, others fall far short. This will seek to examine what is good and bad about the new format.
Paul McCartney (2005)-this was really the first “new halftime show” and thus set the stage for all the others. There was a desperation for class-therefore it set the stage for all the others. McCartney’s performance is not a bad one. He, like many other classic artists, depends entirely on a back catalog. But given that he was one of the main songwriters for The Beatles-well, is anyone going to blame him? Plus, “Hey Jude” is a live audience staple and thus works wonders on the Super Bowl crowd. Although I always find it hilarious that the broadcast showed a man who appeared to be unfamiliar with the lyrics. How polluted with hip hop does one’s mind have to be to not know the lyrics to “Hey Jude?” McCartney certainly set the bar high and it was two years before anyone topped him.
The Rolling Stones (2006)-Even the legends can have terrible performances. Here is your proof-Mick Jagger looks like he was just roused from nap time at the nursing home. Actually, all of the Rolling Stones look the same. This is a band that, honestly, should not exist anymore. Yes, they are legendary. But their masquerade only goes so far. They are not twenty year old outlaws anymore. They are men in their mid sixties merely pretending. This is like the old man in the pony tail who shows up to every housewarming party. Try as they might, their performance just doesn’t work. Oh sure, they try and have fun with it. Jagger jokes about the age of the band (This is a song we could have played at Super Bowl I!) but ultimately, when we are worried more about Jagger’s hip breaking than his musical ability, he is in trouble.
Prince (2007)-This is the greatest of the half time shows. Prince is an amazing musician who knows exactly how to find the audience. And Prince pulls out every single trick he knows-elaborate lighting and staging, a marching band, pretentious backing dancers-the list goes on. Yet it never becomes parody and all appears seamless. Prince does not even use the opportunity to plug a new album-he focuses on Purple Rain and several covers. Prince knows of his expansive back catalog and gives respect to it. This was simply an artist performing. And that is the best that anyone can hope for.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (2008)-This performance wasn’t bad, but merely adequate. It is pleasing, but does nothing to ingrain itself into anyone’s memory. In other words, it is exactly like a Tom Petty album. Tom Petty’s career has lasted thirty years and is marked by creative lyrics with fairly mellow delivery and an absolutely aesthetically displeasing front man. Tom Petty is Neil Diamond in waiting. This performance does nothing to change that. Tom Petty does his job, stands still, but doesn’t do anything to engage the audience. When it is done, the audience is eager for the game to resume.
Bruce Springsteen (2009)-Another terrible performance. While Tom Petty is mellow and is simply there to play his instrument, Springsteen glides awkwardly across the stage and attempts to engage the audience in such a manner that it is questionable whether or not he believes himself to be the quarterback scoring a touchdown. One section has Springsteen running into the camera-literally hitting it. The song transitions are incredibly awkward and, despite Springsteen’s desperation, the songs do not contain any real energy. This is the perfect case of trying to hard and failing. Energy-true energy-cannot be created, only found.
The Who – The fallout from this show was big – to the point that Rolling Stone referring to it as one of the biggest musical flops of 2010. This is a gigantic mistake. Yes, The Who is not as energetic as they used to be. But then, they can utilize a tenth as much energy as they used to have and still end up better than the modern band. My one complaint is that they jumped around too much – they manage to perform about six songs overall. It would have been nice, say, for them to at least finish “Pinball Wizard.” Still, I liked the performance, and the stage they use is one of the best I have seen.
Well, enjoy the game everyone.