So how about that halftime show this weekend with Prince? I don't know about you, but I heard as many people talking about that today near the water cooler as they were about the big game itself. Now when was the last time you could say that about a Super Bowl halftime show? (Well okay, aside from a certain wardrobe malfunction a few years back.)
Prince simply rocked the house at the biggest show of them all, and in doing so may have just re-established himself as music's most electrifying live performer. But for the handful of you reading who missed it, I refer you to the video immediately below:
(Video has been removed from Youtube.)
The fact is it wasn't that long ago that the halftime Super Bowl spectacular was anything but. Remember all those years ago when the halftime show featured the sort of "entertainment" that signaled bathroom breaks and beer runs? Remember those ridiculous "Up With People" type shows featuring the sort of milque toast dance troupes that no doubt inspired South Park's "Getting Gay With Kids"? For the few folks not refreshing their beer and pizza during those fifteen or so minutes, they were often changing the channel. Anybody remember the lingerie bowl?
Since the NFL saw fit to give halftime a much needed makeover a few years back, the biggest rock stars in the world have been tripping all over each other to get in on the action. In recent years we've seen everyone from Kiss and Aerosmith, to the Stones, McCartney, and U2.
Unfortunately the results haven't always lived up to the hype. When Kiss did their thing, all the bombs and explosions in the world couldn't mask the fact that the performance was lip-synched. Likewise, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry looked the very definition of sellout when they did "Walk This Way" cheek to cheek with Britney Spears. As for last year's Rolling Stones performance, is their anybody left in America (well anybody over 30 anyway) who hasn't seen the Stones in concert at least once, when they were a much leaner, meaner, and yes, younger band? And then there was of course Nipplegate…
For his own fifteen minutes this past Sunday, Prince played as though he were mounting a fresh challenge for the title of world's greatest live performer on the biggest stage of his professional life. Truth be told, Prince effectively reclaimed that title a few years back with the breathtaking shows of the Musicology tour.
But anyone who has ever seen Prince in concert knows that as great a performer as he is, his shows can often consist of little more than fragments of songs strung together in what can amount to a non-stop two hour medley of hits. The effect is exhilarating, but can also be frustrating if you are looking to hear complete songs.
In the fifteen minute halftime format of the Super Bowl however, this approach suited Prince perfectly. And he took full advantage. Showing off more of his Jimi Hendrix side than his James Brown, Prince ripped through a set heavy on guitar pyrotechnics that began with the familiar "dearly beloved" of "Let's Go Crazy." After teasing "1999" briefly, he then went straight into "Baby I'm A Star." This led to a series of great cover choices including John Fogerty's "Proud Mary," Dylan by way of Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower," and finally The Foo Fighters "The Best Of You."
Ending with "Purple Rain," Prince looked every bit his majesty silhouetted in the pouring rain and the purple lights. For anyone who wrote him off in the nineties while he was busy battling his record company and engaged in all that unpronounceable symbol nonsense, Prince has served notice to the world on the biggest stage of all that he is back. In doing so, he has also set a standard for Super Bowl halftime shows that will be a challenge to match, let alone top next year.