By Louie Wieseman
I wouldn’t go as far as to call it the biggest halftime show ever, but it was fairly decent when compared with other Super Bowl halftime shows.
The Super Bowl halftime shows seem to be plagued since the wardrobe malfunction between Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during Super Bowl XXXVIII. The halftime shows after that year could be described as ‘safe’ with performances by older rock bands such as The Who, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and The Rolling Stones. The first adventurous show was the Black Eyed Peas’ performance at Super Bowl XLV. The show was a definite disaster even with appearances by Slash and Usher. The Black Eyed Peas pop-techno mix should have been left for college parties, not the halftime show. Last year’s show by Beyoncé and the predictable special appearance by Destiny’s Child was one of the better recent shows. Maybe its success was due to the commitment to avoid another trash-show or because Beyoncé knows how to entertain audiences and does it well.
Where does this leave this year’s half time? Bruno Mars gave a fantastic performance in my opinion. It wasn’t too over-the-top, like Madonna’s show in Super Bowl XLVIII that featured too many guest performers. I admire Bruno’s performance style and the acknowledgement of great artists and old styles of music are always respected.
The show first began with a small children’s choir singing the chorus of “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy and featuring Bruno. They sang until cameras cut to broken satellite feed sounds and projected images, setting a tone of American unity (a constant commercial theme) with projected images of American flags.
Bruno was then featured doing a drum set solo on a moveable platform. Having played drum set for six years, I can tell you that what he was playing wasn’t complicated. With that said, it was impressive to see a talented singer play even a simple part well. He’s got some chops! (Apparently this was prerecorded and the drums detuned to reduce noise actually projected. Tricked me!)
A bright explosion of light flashed across the stadium, the backup band appeared, and thus “Locked Out of Heaven” began. Bruno was so hard to hear. This has been a common problem during past halftime shows as well. This is due to the fact it is difficult to do a sound check beforehand because it’s an all-day process and only around ten to fifteen minutes of setup time is allowed. The backup singers overpowered Bruno Mars’ vocals, frustrating viewers at home. During “Locked Out of Heaven,” it was apparent that Bruno wasn’t lip-syncing these parts, which is so refreshing to see.
The mixture of modern pop and references to James Brown and other great artists that utilize the big band sound proved Bruno Mars’ musical style unique. This was especially apparent during “Treasure,” his second song. “Runaway Baby” transitioned well into “Give It Away.” Heavy rock sounds pumped from the speakers and a swinging horn section referenced ska-genre bands. Oh, and I can’t forget the “Shout” references from Animal House! (A little bit louder now!) Bruno Mars has so many styles thrown together, from funk to jazz to rock, and crazy dance moves that recalled images of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
Then came the part I was excited for: Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was hoping for “Can’t Stop,” the Peppers started off with “Give It Away.” The Chili Peppers’ music was exciting, but they could not compare to Bruno’s performance. It was refreshing to see him sing along to a rap-rock song like “Give It Away”. I think the Chili Peppers should have gotten their own halftime show instead of being combined with Bruno Mars’, but I still enjoyed it. Their music was phenomenal, but the performance was less substantial. It was obvious that these guys were faking it. Oh Flea… so much talent and they can’t even plug you in? However Josh Klinghoffer, the new guitarist, seemed to be really playing when was going nuts during the solo. This put into question who was playing and faking it. The Chili Peppers ended with references to “Jump” by House of Pain. Second only to Bruno’s performance, Chad Smith’s drum set stole the show. It looked absolutely gorgeous with all thirty two NFL team logos on it. Where can I buy one for my house?
A comparatively quiet piano solo introduced the closing song “Just the Way You Are.” It was a video tribute of veterans and active Armed Force members overseas who greeted and sent messages to loved ones. This tied in to the first song’s American unity theme. “Just the Way You Are” ended the show with meaningful or good-feeling songs like past performances with the same air as Beyoncé’s “Halo” or Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” during Super Bowl XIXXX.
Overall, this was a great halftime show following so many awful halftime shows. The two time Grammy award winning artist ( most recently for Best Pop Vocal Album for Unorthodox Jukebox) definitely proved his worthiness. It’s going to be a difficult task for organizers to top this show next year.