The Best Super Bowl Halftime Performances
By Mike Ryan Posted Feb 6th 2010 10:53AM
The Who will be performing at halftime of Super Bowl XLIV this Sunday. Or, more accurately, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, with some other people, will be performing at halftime, -- considering bassist John Entwistle died in 2002 and drummer Keith Moon died in 1978. (If Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were the halftime act, would they be billed as "The Beatles"?) The Super Bowl halftime show has gone through quite a few transformations (thanks, Janet Jackson) since its debut in 1967 -- a debut that featured the star power of ... the University of Arizona and Grambling marching bands. In 2007, the halftime performer was one of the most popular recording artists of all time, Prince; in 1971 the halftime performer was the Southeast Missouri State band. Southeast Missouri State! So, as the halftime shows continue to get bigger and bigger, we decided to take a look back at some of the more memorable performances.
Super Bowl XLI - Prince
In 2007, Prince took the halftime stage -- only three years removed from the Janet Jackson Nipple-Gate controversy -- and played a seemingly innocuous rain-soaked setlist consisting of "Let's Go Crazy," "Baby I'm a Star" and "Purple Rain." Prince seemed to avoid any controversy -- he resisted the urge to perform "Darling Nikki" or "Sexy MF" -- but, as the camera panned above The Purple One, his love symbol shaped guitar cast a giant shadow phallic symbol across the stage. Minor shadow-phallus aside, Prince shredded through his songs, reminding everyone that he's considered a genius for a reason.
Super Bowl XLIII - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Bruce Springsteen's not the kind of guy to go for symbolic phallic symbols. Hey, he's The Boss! If he wants to show you his crotch, he's going to show you his crotch, dammit -- up close and personal. During his opening performance of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," Bruce shocked a nation (and one very surprised camera man) by doing a running knee-slide -- legs open -- right into a running camera. A last chance power drive, indeed. It's good to be The Boss.
Super Bowl XXV - New Kids on the Block
In 1991, the United States had just started operations in the first Gulf War and the lasting impression, musically, from this game was Whitney Houston's now iconic singing of 'The Star Spangled Banner.' Remember the halftime performers? You probably don't, because it wasn't aired live. New Kids on the Block performed "Step by Step" and "This One's For the Children" and, because of Desert Storm news coverage, the halftime show wasn't seen. An edited version was later played after the game, late enough that anyone actually wanting to see NKOTB had long since fallen asleep. Stunned Buffalo Bills fans were not entertained.
Super Bowl XXIII - In 3D
NBC -- always willing (ahem) to take a chance on a new idea -- unleashed the "Diet Coke Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D" halftime show onto the world in 1989. Hosted by something called Elvis Presto, the performance consisted of some 3-D dancing and a card trick. (Where is the Southeast Missouri State band when you need them?) It would be almost 21 years before "Avatar" was released and a stunned nation would ever again accept 3-D technology.
Super Bowl XXXVI - U2
With all apologies to Bruce Springsteen and Prince (and Elvis Presto), U2 delivered, without question, easily the greatest and most emotional Super Bowl halftime performance of all time. Only a litle over four months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U2 gave an inspired set which included "Beautiful Day," "MLK," and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The last song featured a scrolling list behind the band that featured the names of every person who died during the attacks.
Super Bowl XXXVII - Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock
The halftime show that changed everything. Remember, there was this somewhat horrible trend happening at the halftime shows where one contemporary artist would begin and, as the show progressed, more and more singers would join. After awhile, it become reminiscent of a WWE Royal Rumble. Thankfully, Justin Timberlake would rip open Janet Jackson's shirt revealing her breast and thousands of outraged football viewers would complain, causing the madness to finally stop. Unfortunately, as a result, we never again saw a sporting event completely live again -- there is now a few seconds delay on every telecast -- but, thankfully(?), we did get to see Paul McCartney sing "Drive My Car" one year later.
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