Springsteen Rocks the Super Bowl

02.01.09 9 years ago 2 Comments

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

What? There’s a game on? For folks like me, the Cardinals and Steelers are simply Bruce Springsteen’s opening act today. (Okay, even I have to admit, the ending of the first half was amazing!)

8:05 p.m.
Nice! Gorgeous, back lit shot of Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons, back to back, mimicking the iconic “Born to Run” cover. Springsteen goes into full on preacher mode, telling people to step away from the guacamole dip.

8:06 p.m.
The opening chords of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” start. I feel a back bend coming on. Oh-first there’s the knee drop, then into the back bend. He’s 59 years old, people. He sounds a little rusty, but the energy level is 100% from the start. And it’s clear he really is going to try to replicate a full, 3-hour E Street Band show in 12 minutes. He immediately goes into the audience. He’s singing live. No doubt about that one.

8:09 p.m.
There goes the knee slide. He usually saves that for “Mary’s Place,” but that’s obviously not on today’s set list.

8:09 p.m (still)
He goes into “Born to Run.” I would have thought this would be the closer. I’ve been hearing it for over 20 years now and it never gets old. It’s my all-time favorite rock song. My heart still soars at the “1-2-3-4” count off (I also believe Springsteen counts off a rock song better than anyone). He’s a little croaky and seems a little stiff, but no matter. The camera flashes to a full horn section. They’re a nice touch. The fireworks are timed to the song: it’s a little like watching the dancing waters at the Bellagio-a little cheesy-but still nice.

8:12 p.m.
Springsteen goes in the Townshend windmill imitation. He’s one of the few rockers that can pull it off and it looks great on TV.

8:13 p.m.
When asked why he was playing the Super Bowl after turning it down in years previous, Springsteen would say to anyone who would listen, with a somewhat embarrassed laugh, that it was because they had a new album out. He admits he doesn’t even follow football. That’s either a refreshingly honest answer or a little crass. Well, he’s not going to squander this opportunity. He, wife Patti Scialfa, and Little Steven come out to the proscenium stage and break into the new album’s title track, “Working on a Dream.” It breaks the full-on rocking, but they’re backed by a choir, which adds a nice, soulful element to the song. It’s weird to see Springsteen backed by a choir not once, but twice, in the past two weeks: a choir backed him during “The Rising” at the HBO Inaugural “We are One” concert. I don’t like the song any better now than I did when I first heard it. It’s slight and, despite the nice message, just blah.

8:15 p.m.:
Springsteen goes from a shortened version of “Working on a Dream” into the totally appropriate “Glory Days,” changing the lyrics from baseball to football. It’s fun to watch the choir bouncing off to the strains of the song. Springsteen is working the crowd hard, kneeling before the front row. I’ve been in that front row before; it’s a powerful thing when he’s that close to you. The horn section is front and center. I hope he takes them out with him on tour this time. Clemons is hanging in there, but could use the back up.

8:16 p.m.:
Springsteen and Little Steven go into the “quitting time” routine they usually do during “Ramrod” that makes the crowd go crazy. The dialog is altered for the game, but the result is the same. What time is it? It’s Boss Time! During a show, that usually means there are a few more songs coming. Sadly, this time it is really quitting time. It’s a shame, Springsteen was just getting warmed up. He screams “I’m going to Disneyland,” as he preps to leave the stage. Not really funny, just kind of irritating, but we’re sure Disney is happy for the plug.

All in all, he did a great job. I would have put in “Badlands” instead of “Working on a Dream,” but the point was to push the new album and to show over 100 million people watching in the U.S. alone that’s how you rock and roll, my friends.

Looking back at the preshow:

6:15 p.m.:
Faith Hill sang a gorgeous version of “America the Beautiful.” I always love the shots of the players who have to try to look patriotic and respectful when all they want is to get onto the field. I don’t remember being part of the show before and it may just be to add star power. Regardless, she does a great job and it doesn’t look like she’s lip synching.

6:18 p.m.:
Let’s all rise for the singing of the National Anthem. Jennifer Hudson is definitely lip syncing to her own pre-recorded version-further proof is that they’re barely showing her. (They’re too busy showing US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger.) This is usually the case with the “Star Spangled Banner.” There are just too many opportunities for disaster-high winds in an open stadium, artist nerves, hitting clams. Therefore, from as far back as when Whitney Houston sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, a safety version is taped and the artist can sing to that. She’s backed by a somewhat souled-out backing track. Hudson, who’s the second consecutive “American Idol” contestant to sing the anthem (Jordin Sparks performed it last year), sounds great. Even if she’s lip syncing, she’s still singing to herself. Hell, in my mind, the fact that she’s even standing upright after what she went through this fall is enough for me.

And now for a little history lesson, there was a time when the Super Bowl was simply about the game. In the ’60s, the halftime would often resemble that of a college game, complete with a marching band from Grambling or Southeast Missouri State taking the field between halves.

Then there were the themed salutes: the tribute to Mardi Gras (with that noted football icon Carol Channing. There are so many jokes there I don’t even know where to start) in 1970 or the tribute to Duke Ellington in 1975. In 1991, the halftime (a salute to Walt Disney World featuring New Kids on the Block) wasn’t shown live. Instead ABC News presented coverage of Desert Storm during halftime and then aired the half-time show after the game.

The idea of using a modern day superstar really came of age in 1993 with Michael Jackson, who, long before any allegations or trials surfaced, was joined by 3,500 kids on “Heal the World.”

However, the halftime show didn’t really rock-and then only a little bit– until 2001 when Aerosmith shared a stage with ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly.

After U2 played the halftime show in 2002, that really broke it wide open for any rocker to play. Then, since the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake nip-slip in 2004, Don Mischer Productions (who was brought in after that fiasco), has focused on male rockers: Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. If Springsteen has his way, he’ll keep that tradition going. Bob Costas asked him whom he’d like to have follow him next year. His answer? Coldplay.

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