Halftime at the Super Bowl provides the biggest U.S. viewing audience you’re going to find, usually approaching the 100 million mark. Putting on a worthwhile show in the 10ish minutes allotted is a huge feat. Those that assemble the stage plus get the audio (remotely) right, in the stadium and on TV, deserve an award just for getting that done (halftime at the Super Bowl is 30 minutes in its entirety).
When The Rolling Stones performed the halftime show in 2006 (Super Bowl XL), a (mostly) volunteer crew of 600 assembled the 28-piece stage in 5 minutes.
In 1967, the first Super Bowl was played in L.A. at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The halftime performance was delivered by the Universities of Arizona and Michigan bands. That’s it.
After The Boss tore up the field in Tampa last year, that 1967 line-up is one of the most anti-climactic discoveries I could have possibly made while researching Super Bowl halftime performance history. I was certain I’d look back and see (at least) some more recognizable stars having held this stage.
But not even close.
From 1967 through 1992, there were some ridiculously random moments that I’m not even sure were intended to keep people watching, at home or in-person. From Up With People to marching bands to Brian Boitano to Diet Coke’s wack attempt at bringing 3-D entertainment into our living rooms, it was all over the place. There were a couple of good moments, I’m sure, but short of sitting through 25 halftime performances, I’m going to live life under the impression that they were not worth remembering, or reliving.
Finally, between the 1992 and 1993 Super Bowls, those with power to do something about it realized that there was a pretty huge potential of viewership, and lore, to be created between the halves. Where else to go but Michael Jackson, who entered the Rose Bowl in Pasadena that day as a complete bad-ass. January of 1993 was just prior to the sad, molestation-era that riddled the remainder of his life. Either way, a new standard had been set and since that time primarily major recording artists have taken center-stage at halftime.
The 2002 performance of Irish-rockers U2 came at an extremely emotional time in U.S. history, a mere four months post the attacks of September 11, 2001. No other Super Bowl halftime show has carried a fraction of the emotional impact as that night in The Big Easy, as some 3,000 names were displayed on a huge curtain behind the stage.
Accident or not, the misgivings from the 2004 incident involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake still abound. The FCC levied all kinds of fines and is apparently still caught-up in trying to figure out how to best keep such an event from ever happening again, and/or how to punish those that may get around the censors in the future.
Since 2004? Primarily near 60-year old men. The youngest headliner since 2004 was Prince, who played in 2007 at the age of 48.
Rock legends The Who will take the stage for this year’s forty-forth Super Bowl. When I first heard this news I was excited, but the more I think about it…really? If you follow this blog at all you know I’m a huge fan of music history and embracing the legends, but…
Are we so scared of Janet and Justin’s incident that, even with time-delay, we can’t schedule some more current talent to entertain us on this implied national holiday? And have females essentially been banned? Anyone else feel like this coveted performance slot needs to be rethought?
Either way, I’ll take The Who over the University of Michigan’s marching band any day.