Today concludes our two-part review of the last 10 years of Super Bowl halftime shows. If you missed Part One, it’s here. But you could have just scrolled down for 2.3 seconds on the home page, too, you lazy fool.
2006: The Rolling Stones
Oldies but goodies, then 62-year-old Mick Jagger and the Stones rocked the stage, in the band’s familar red mouth shape, for Detroit’s Super Bowl XL. Jagger strutted and swayed around the stage like he was 22 – and the result was, if slightly painful at times, an old-time blast throughout. Jagger and the band blasted their way through “Start Me Up,” “Rough Justice,” and “(I Can’t get No) Satisfaction” – which Mick introduced as “one we could have played at Super Bowl I.” The biggest potential black hole here was the inclusion of “Rough Justice, ”akin to Bruce’s “Working on a Dream,” as both tracks basically served the purpose of promoting the groups’ respective new albums. Imagine some licks of “Sympathy for the Devil” or “Brown Sugar” instead, and you’ll see why this show wasn’t perfect. And how in the world did Ron Wood get more screen time than Keith Richards?
2005: Paul McCartney
In the first post-Nipplegate show, the NFL went about as safe as possible with the legendary former Beatle. Macca seemed to be having a blast, cranking out Beatles tunes “Drive My Car” and “Get Back” to start the show, helped by his excellent backing band. (I’ve seen them in concert, and they are just phenomenal.) An early question for this one: what exactly was going on with the stage under McCartney’s feet? It looked like he was in the center of a glowing Dance Dance Revolution pad. I’m also not sure if McCartney knew where he was (though, I don’t blame him, it was Jacksonville) since he shouted out “Thank you, Super Bowl!” without ever acknowledging the city.
The back half of the mini-show was the more impressive part, with a fireworks-laden rendition of “Live and Let Die” and an abbreviated closer of “Hey Jude.” McCartney took to the piano for these two, where he continued to be having as much fun as anyone in the stadium…if happy bobbing head motions and hands raised in the air doubled as currency, Sir Paul would be a very rich man, baby. (I’ll pause here to let you all get the irony. Sink in yet? Good. Bonus points if you got the Beatles reference, and by bonus points I mean “one point.”) There’s nothing here that you wouldn’t see on a larger scale at a McCartney concert save the ridiculous stage, but that’s more than fine. When Paul closes out the set by letting the crowd sing along to the “Na”s in Hey Jude, with the audience holding up cards that make out the letters “NA”, and a flourish of piano notes rings out, it’s one of the happiest musical moments you’ll see at any Super Bowl.
2004: Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock
OK, we know Justin Timberlake ripped open Janet Jackson’s shirt to reveal her breast. But how was the show otherwise? You know, in terms of actual music and stuff?
Well, Kid Rock wore an American flag on stage, because he symbolizes America. And all the crackheads, methodone clinics, hookers, and shots of Jack contained in it. (Gee, I wonder the NFL went to Paul McCartney after this?) Rock rapped (sang) (nope, rapped) his way through a medley of “Bawitdaba” and “Cowboy,” which are both kind of fun, but the whole thing was over-the-top and ridiculous. Please don’t ever give us an American-flag-as-poncho wearing man on stage at the halftime show again, NFL.
What else? This show was apparently supposed to centered around the “Rock The Vote” campaign, which is interesting. I guess American flag ponchos and Janet Jackson’s half-naked dancers were meant to symbolize Republicans and Democrats, which makes sense never. Jackson started off the show with “All 4 You”, then people climbed all over giant wall things and slouched on the ground, and clothes continued not to be worn, and lots of lip synching happened. (Why even bother faking the vocals? It’s clear to anyone that this was not sung live.)
There was a marching band somewhere in there, too.
And then Justin Timberlake showed up to save the show! (In case you didn’t know who he was, the giant “JUSTIN” banner helped.) But the gigantic, over-the-top, elephant-sized ridiculousness had long permeated the show by this point, and even his indecent exposing didn’t help.
(By the way, P. Diddy and Nelly were supposedly in this show, but I couldn’t find them anywhere on YouTube. I’m going to assume that was the good part of the show, though.)
Points are awarded here for creativity, I guess, and the fact that there was at least some effort to make this an extravaganza of a show. The people behind this clearly wanted it to be an event and generate discussion. Yep. Mission accomplished.
If this review sounds like I’m just rambling, I am. I will take Tom Petty standing in one place at age 97 over this any day of the week.
2003: Shania Twain, No Doubt, and Sting
Either there was some lip-syncing or a serious backup track going on here, because Shania Twain’s live performance of “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” sounded like the studio version from the first second. How do I know this? My dad has played this song 1,000 times in his car before, that’s how. Still, that wasn’t the saddest part of Shania’s “performance” – the glittery silver and black dress that was stolen from the Bride of Frankenstein’s closet probably took the cake on that one. And by the way, just zoom to 4:00 in the above video to realize how bad the lip-syncing was at one point. Shania then ended on the arm of a crane with balloons and streamers. Which is supposed to be cool.
Gwen Stefani then showed up and immediately gained back a shred of credibility by actually singing! Live! No Doubt started with “Just A Girl”, meaning two of the first three songs in the halftime show on the manliest day of the year were “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” and “Just A Girl.” Just so we’re clear, this is never going to happen again, right? Good.
(What’s that? Did you say Madonna’s performing this year? Oh. Um. Well. This is awkward.)
Sting then showed up for “Message in a Bottle.” Two questions to start…number one, why couldn’t Sting get an instrument for this? He looked like he had no idea what to do with his hands. It was a Ricky Bobby-esque performance of motions. Number Two, what the hell was his shirt? I think the right half of it was taken out of the Baldwin PAL closet. Gwen joined him for a reverse-gender duet about midway through, with Stefani taking the low notes and Sting hitting the high reaches.
All in all, not that bad, except for Shania’s lip-synching Matrix act. Oh, and that was nearly half of the show? Yikes.
Wait…did this clip end with Chris Berman saying “the sting has been on the Raiders offense,” or am I dreaming?
And now we reach the greatest Super Bowl halftime show there ever was, is, or will be.
There are people in the world that don’t like U2. I know this is a simply amazing fact, but it’s true. I know some of them. They claim it’s for their music – and I’d wager that at least half of those people define “their music” as “Bono is arrogant.” You know what? Bono is arrogant. And also does more to help people than a handful of folks on the entire planet. And he also happens to make some of the best music that anyone has ever heard. So I’m OK with it. But we’re here to talk about the music.
First, some context: this was, of course, the first Super Bowl since the tragic attacks of September 11th. You don’t need me to spell out the mood of the country at that moment. And an Irish band provided one of the most astonishing displays of uplifting patriotism that I’ve seen to this day.
The show starts with Bono walking through the fans – in a neat little touch, you couldn’t see him until he began singing the song (NOT LIP-SYNCHING! ACTUALLY SINGING LIVE!) “Beautiful Day”, a tremendous uplifting anthem that becomes even more powerful life. On the band’s heart-shaped stage, the fearsome foursome from Ireland just crushes the song. We’re already at one of the greatest halftime shows ever, and it’s one damn song in.
And then comes the banner. Behind the band, a banner listing the names of every victim from the 9/11 attacks rises up as Bono dusts off “MLK” from the band’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire. “Sleep, sleep tonight…may your dreams be realized.” And then The Edge’s opening chords to “Where The Streets Have No Name” jump in, and even today, sitting at my computer, I’m practically in tears. It’s the closest music can make me come to crying, and Bono’s joyful and energetic singing nearly does the trick every time, but especially in this emotional performance. And if that’s not enough – the flag. Bono rips open his jacket at the end of the song to reveal an American flag. And the country seems to be one step closer to healing.
Even today, there’s no better way to spend 12 minutes of your time than to watch this show. It’s a moment that transcended the halftime show, that transcended music, that transcended everything. In the span of not even three full songs.
I welcome the freedom of differing opinions on this blog. You’re allowed to agree or disagree with me as vehemently or as little as you want. But this show was amazing. And that, my friends, is a fact.