Hey, NFL, you want the perfect choice for the next Super Bowl halftime show?
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
The Boss and his band Steel the show
After last year’s disappointment that was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and previous AARP-sponsored appearances by Prince, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, The Boss and his band demonstrated that neither the age of the performers or the audience matters if the music is energetic and timeless.
Despite Pittsburgh’s James Harrison trying to steal the show at the end of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers and Arizona Cardinals were merely the opening act for Springsteen’s 12 minutes during the Bridgestone Halftime Show.
Springsteen, 59, has a voice that has matured like a fine wine, while the entire band’s power was amped to 11. Rarely have 12 minutes been as exciting. The four songs:
1. “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” - The one I would have never guessed they would choose over “Born in the USA,” “Thunder Road” or “Dancing in the Dark,” but it worked as a terrific device to quickly drive the handpicked crowd around the stage into a frenzy. (And it wasn’t just young people this year, which was a wise move by someone.)
2. “Born to Run” - The one they had to include just as Petty had to do “American Girl” last year. “Run” is established as one of the great youth anthems of our times and the E Band’s signature song.
3. “Working on a Dream” - Didn’t recognize it? D’uh. It’s the title song of Springsteen’s new album, meaning it had to be here. And it worked with a rousing choir backup and a tone of hope in trying times.
4. “Glory Days” - Yes, it’s about a has-been football player, but you could feel Springsteen’s statement that “growing old” doesn’t have to mean resting on your laurels. This was his personal statement.
It all worked, including the fireworks and even the opening silhouette shot that brought back uncomfortable memories of what Prince did with his silhouette.
Springsteen never needed tasteless gimmicks. He truly had the stadium in his hands when he shouted, “We’re going to overtime!” and, “It’s Boss time!” Nobody - with the possible exception of the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell - would have minded if the band had stayed on stage for another hour.
So bring them back, Commissioner Goodell. Where does it say that the entertainment must change each year? It sure beats the old days when they kept using Up With People.
Footnote: Pssst, Mr. Springsteen, it’s supposed to be “I’m going to Disney World,” not “I’m going to Disneyland!”
Hudson & Hill good, too
The pregame ceremony was excellent, too, and a lesson in brevity for NBC and the NFL. It began with Kurt Warner winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Faith Hill did a short and charming America the Beautiful, followed by the enthusiastically received introduction of the crew of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, led by pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.
Best of show, however, was Jennifer Hudson performing a powerful but not overly theatrical national anthem that would be in the conversation for best ever at a Super Bowl. Anyone aware that her mother, brother and nephew were slain in October was additionally moved. Good show all around and a strong promise for what The Boss would do later.
Did Obama dis Gators?
What about it, Gator Nation? Do you want a recount?
During his live interview with Matt Lauer from the White House, President Obama did turn to the camera and say about Florida’s national football championship:
“Congratulations, Gators, on an outstanding season. (Tim) Tebow is great. Wouldn’t you feel better if you had beat every team that was out there though a playoff system? I love you, but I think they could have taken on anybody through the playoff system. By the way, one of our secret service guys, his son is a tackle on the Florida Gators so I have a soft spot for them.”
If you say so, Mr. President.
NBC lost sound for about 10 seconds as we heard a frantic voice cry, “Did you lose it?” Yes, they did.
Other stuff almost as important as the Gators:
Will more of our armed forces be home for the next Super Bowl? “Yes.”
More tough times for the American economy? “I think we’re going to be in for a tough several months. We’ve got to get this economic recovery plan passed.”
Mention was made of Obama having a “terrible towel” in another room although he promised not to rub it because “we’ve got some Arizona congressmen here and I may need their vote on the economy package.”
Who wins? “It’s tough to predict, but I think the Steelers are going to eek it out in the end.”
And the President of the United States noted Jessica Simpson has a weight problem. That must have made her day.
Who let the puppies out?
Over on Animal Planet, we had Puppy Bowl V, narrated once again by Harry Kalas of NFL Films.
Hey, these are cynical times. I couldn’t help wondering if those puppies were on something - especially “Moose,” the Aussie Shepard that towered over the others.
Great product placement of a Bissell vacuum cleaner for picking up cat hair after halftime show.
Speaking of the famed kitty halftime show, the kitties seemed off their game. Dare I say it had they been taken off the catnip in fear of a Congressional investigation?
NBC’s ‘Road’ way too long
At noon, NBC presented the hour-long Road to the Super Bowl, the annual excellent wrap-up of the season by NFL Films. If only it had been at 5 p.m. as the rest of the network’s filler was 70 percent blah-blah-blah, 25 percent silly and the rest solid.
If anyone was seeing the NFL game for the first time in the Road show at noon by NFL Films, they would have been introduced to the game’s beauty, grace, camaraderie and, above all, violence.
Poor Ed Hochuli. We had to see his Chargers-Broncos gaffe one more time.
Poor Jon Gruden. We hear him say, “I love the National Football League” back when the season was young.
Poor Ed McMahon. He did a commercial as “spokesman and client” for Cash for Gold.