Super Bowl Halftime Shows Review: Part 1

Sorry for the lateness of today’s post – blame the ridiculously nice weather and The Descendants.

Today begins a two-part look at the last ten years of Super Bowl halftime shows.  This is a fun one to research.  We’ll count down from last season, starting with…

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2011: The Black Eyed Peas

Chronicle is a found-footage movie (yes, another one) about teenagers with superhero powers.  Its trailers and TV advertisements have looked somewhat laughable, and it’s being released in the movie dumping ground of February.  Its most famous actor is Michael B. Jordan, and yes, he needs the “B”.  But against all odds, it’s currently 13 for 15 in positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.com, an overwhelmingly positive consensus.  The point being?  Sometimes, you just don’t know.

Well, with the Black Eyed Peas, we knew.

It would have been a different story had the Elephunk-era Peas performed.  Even the Monkey Business stuff was somewhat listenable.  But by 2011, it’s pretty clear will.i.am and pals had forgotten how to make music, while discovering how to climb the charts with utter crap.  (Any one of the millions of you who has “Boom Boom Pow” on your iPod should be ashamed of yourself and lose the ability to have ears.)  True to form, their halftime show was a total sonic disaster.  It looked…pretty?  No?  What’s the word?  Well, it was something.  Usher descending in for the not-totally-abysmal “OMG” was probably the highlight of this, with Slash’s sad appearance as Fergie took an axe to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” the lowlight of many lowlights.  Or maybe the lowlight was the Peas cramming in as many snippets of awful songs into 12 minutes as possible.  Or maybe the lowlight was the first ever Super Bowl halftime show to start with an overly-autotuned mic.  The sound of a cheese grater being run through a buzzsaw might have been preferable to this.  (That being said, no one’s ever screamed “Mazel Tov!” at the Super Bowl before.)

Anyway, if you have friends that enjoyed this, stop being friends with them.

Grade: F

2010: The Who

And here are the main culprits for last year’s Super Bowl.  The largely negative backlash to what’s left of The Who probably caused the NFL to move into the 21st century.  But…was it really that bad?

No.  But it wasn’t that good, either.  I saw Daltrey and Townshend back in 2006, and they still brought in a sensational show.  But these 12 or so minutes were, despite their best efforts, full of some awkward poses and old-man dancing.  There wasn’t anything special planned here for the occasion, from those two, either.  The good?  A stage in the shape of the old bullseye-looking logo, bullseye high hats on the drums, and drummer Zak Starkey’s Union Jack shirt.

The performance of “Who Are You” was a good summation from the overall set: some awkward moments (Townshend’s half-on, half-off backup vocals) and some great ones (Townshend’s guitar shredding…yup, he’s still got it).  But overall, it seemed like this was just an awkward jam session at times.  Would I still pay to see that from The Who?  Of course.  But maybe not at the Super Bowl, in a short 12-minute package.

Grade: C+

2009: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

NOW we’re talking.  Take note, everyone who ever plays at the Super Bowl again – this is how you put on a show.  The introduction from the players…followed by the impassioned intro from Bruce himself, and the starting selection of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out – it doesn’t get much better than this.  To steal a line of one of the YouTube video’s commenters: “Bruce Springsteen didn’t play at the Super Bowl halftime show, the Super Bowl played before and after a Springsteen concert.”  The Boss’ energy is infectious, culminating in an epic crotch-slide into a camera, and everyone on the stage seems to be having the time of his or her life, with the late, great Clarence Clemons stealing the show.

The only negative here is the inclusion of “Working on a Dream,” which came from Bruce’s most recent album at the time, when there were about 100 other options.  But a gospel choir behind The Boss just about makes up for that.  This was as good as the game – and the game itself (Steelers/Cardinals) was one of the best in Super Bowl history.  And Bruce’s scream of “I’m going to Disney Land!” at show’s end just caps it off – this was simply as astonishing as 12 to 13 minutes of live music can be.

Grade: A

2008: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Do you remember anything that happened in this halftime show?  Um…yeah, me either.  Tom Petty played some pretty good songs, there was a heart-shaped stage, and everyone continued to not know any member of the Heartbreakers.  It happened.  I mean…I just watched it and I don’t remember anything specific other than the songs, aside from one neat moment – the lights going down and the crowd holding up tiny flashlights for “Free Fallin’.”  At least the music was good.

Grade: B-

2007: Prince

Well, this was just bizarre.  And I’m not talking about the phallic guitar just three years after Nipplegate.  Prince – with a litany of hits in his own right – chose to cover bits of “We Will Rock You”, “All Along The Watchtower”, “Proud Mary”, and nearly two and a half minutes of the Foo Fighters’ “Best Of You.”  Huh?  Why did Prince cover “Best Of You”?  I love “Best Of You,” but out of all the songs for Prince to cover, why this one?  The rest of the set was fine, with the highlight being Florida A&M’s marching band playing along to the beat of “1999” and “Baby I’m A Star.”  People have universally ranked this as one of the greatest Super Bowl halftime shows ever…I’m not seeing or hearing it.  Just play “1999,” for crying out loud.

Grade: C+

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Tomorrow, a look at Super Bowls from 2002 to 2006…nipples, tongues, and the greatest halftime show ever.

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3 responses to “Super Bowl Halftime Shows Review: Part 1

  1. Bruce’s Band was playback. I think the logistics of micing them would be near impossible, but regardless, it was faked.

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