Prince Outplayed Peyton; Remembering the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show
Many seemingly random words and abstract concepts are associated with the late singer Prince. "Rain", "love" and "Minnesota" are all words that immediately spark memories of the artist who once went by an indecipherable symbol of his own creation.
"Football", however, was never even considered to be in the realm of possibilities (Prince was a big Vikings fan, but you never thought of him for his Viking fandom)....a hypothesis that was officially debunked on February 4, 2007 in Miami.
Super Bowl XLI, a 29-17 Indianapolis Colts victory over the Chicago Bears, mostly lies forgotten in terms of the game itself. It's certainly not the worst Super Bowl ever played, and featured memorable happenings like Devin Hester's opening kickoff runback for the score, Peyton Manning finally walking off with the Lombardi Trophy in his hands, and had parties across the nation asking "Rex Grossman made the Super Bowl?!?!".
The four quarters, though, are lost in the magnificence of the concert put on by The Purple One.
In the midst of the infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show...or, as you remember it, the Timberlake/Jackson performance...the most famous intermission in America had stuck to older artists, a trend that would encompass Super Bowls XXXIX-XLIV. Paul McCartney had entertained the Jacksonville crowd in XXXIX, while The Rolling Stones rocked the Motor City for XL. The shows, while entertaining, didn't do enough to overshadow the games, and the Big Game in Miami looked for a new act.
Enter His Royal Badness.
In a show-stopping performance that covered 12 minutes, Prince, dressed in a blue and orange get up that would make Saul Goodman blush, managed to get in seven songs. Incredibly, none of them seemed rushed. Instead, they were well played, during the crowd of over 74,000 to their feet, remaining in their rain soaked seats rather than depart for the dry sanctuary of the concourse. Getting things off to a quick start with a cover Queen's "We Will Rock You", Prince then rocked out with two of the many songs that made America fall in love with him, "Let's Go Crazy" and "Baby, I'm a Star".
Three more covers then graced the stage, the first being a famous hit from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Let me guess..."Have You Ever Seen the Rain" or "Who Will Stop the Rain"? But no...eschewing the obvious, the practical, the expected, the norm...as he was wont to do...Prince instead went with "Proud Mary", sending the Miami crowd into a frenzy. Covers of "All Along the Watchtower" and "Best of You" soon followed.
The window of the Super Bowl halftime show opens fast, and closes even more quickly. Bruce Springsteen would poke fun at the concept two years later. But not only did Prince make each ensuing new segment seem natural, not rushed, but perfectly timed, his unbridled enthusiasm, with the 48-year-old looking more like the young Hester the way he was moving, only fueling him further.
And, in the end, as the Floridian skies opened up, he hit us with "Purple Rain".
Audience participation was nothing new with Super Bowl halftime shows. Two years earlier, fans helped spell out the chorus of "Hey Jude" back in Jacksonville. This though, took the concept even further, as the fans, using stadium-provided purple flashlights, came together to light up Dolphins Stadium, as Prince belted out his most famous tune, concluding the best Super Bowl halftime show in recent memory (hides from imminent Beyonce fan backlash).
The High Priest of Pop has departed us now. Musically, he was always achieving the insane, getting to levels thousands of artists can only dream of. On the football field, for one night at least, he accomplished the same level of insanity without ever putting a helmet and pads on. In a time where it was feared and ridiculed for its potential to offend, or even trashed upon for its near irrelevancy, Prince made us believe in the Super Bowl Halftime Show once more. When you accomplish something like, frankly, you can call yourself whatever the heck you want.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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