Prince reaffirms Purple Reign at Super Bowl
One word for the 12-minute halftime show of the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince: Wow. It was easily the best halftime musical performance since U2’s in 2002 — maybe even better. (And, for the record, U2’s one of my all-time favorites.)
If you missed it or want to relive it, check it out (for now) on YouTube. Here’s my chronological breakdown of this event, using the time markers of the YouTube video:
[0:07] Possibly the worst part of the performance, an infantile version of “We Will Rock You,” with superfluous pyrotechnics, a chorus of whiny children and awful canned crowd noise. The good news is that the pervasive canned applause won’t have to be used again, as Prince improbably wins over the crowd of football-first fans.
[0:40] “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life!” The first of many goosebump moments. Yes, Mr. Nelson, I am accepting your invitation to become mentally unstable.
[0:58] With a fog in the sky caused by the fireworks and rain, the charging throng of fans look like they’re fleeing from Godzilla.
[1:26] Prince’s primary back-up singer, wearing a white cape and a matching hat brim that makes it look like there’s a frisbee ring on her head, gets her first halftime face time — perhaps to distract us from the fact that Prince is wearing a turquoise suit and salmon button-down. (I suppose that color combo is Miami-appropriate, but wow.)
[1:33] Prince launches into the first of many fantastic guitar solos. I know the guy is famous for everything from his constant name-changes to his eclectic fashion sense, but everyone forgets just how amazing of a musician he is.
[1:52] He gets so into the solo that he’s late in resuming his vocals, missing the “Are we gonna let (the)” before returning to the mic with “elevator bring us down.” He plays it cool. No harm, no foul.
[2:06] Prince starts getting the crowd into it with some call-and-response singing. Considering the bulk of the crowd had been more concerned with the score and mustard packets prior to halftime, Prince starts to win them over, based on the volume of response.
[2:23] We’re reminded that it’s pouring outside as the camera lens is covered with translucent hexagonal raindrops. I’m expecting the NFL to fine Mother Nature $8 million and promise more global warming.
[2:49] Prince taunts the crowd by singing a call-and-response falsetto riff that only dogs could hear and/or sing back to him: “HOOO-ooo-OOO-ooo-EEEEE!” Hilarious.
[3:21] It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl halftime show without an appearance from a superfluous marching band, which plays the opening riff of “1999.” But Prince then quickly and seamlessly shifts into the vocals of “Baby I’m A Star.”
[3:42] We see our first glimpse of the marching band uniforms’ glow-in-the-dark lining, which makes them look like they’re guest-starring in the movie “Tron.” It really is the ’80s all over again.
[3:44] Prince utters the pick-up line all journalists should use: “Hey, I ain’t got no money/But honey I’m rich on personality.”
[4:22] Another seamless segue, this time into “Proud Mary,” which sounds particularly cool with his caped crusader back-up singer and all the marching band brass behind him.
[5:08] Obligatory Guitar Switch No. 1.
[5:21] Prince switches it up yet again, playing a few guitar riffs of a different song before revealing the first words of “All Along The Watchtower,” channeling Jimi Hendrix through his fingertips. More goosebumps.
[6:04] The biggest surprise: Prince pays homage to the Foo Fighters with his bluesy, moody take on “Best Of You.” As a huge Foo Fighters fan, I think Dave Grohl should be really proud; Prince stays true to the song without ripping it off.
[6:32] It’s amazing that Prince can find two dancers who are shorter than he is. Geena Davis need not apply.
[7:19] Continuing the musical seance that he began with Hendrix, Prince channels the late James Brown on a wail that would make almost anyone “get on up.”
[7:21] He starts a raucous, raw best guitar solo that’s his best of the night.
[8:21] In the middle of a downpour, the opening riff of “Purple Rain” resonates through the stadium. No, that’s not just the hypothermia that’s causing your goosebumps. Also, Obligatory Guitar Switch No. 2.
[8:41] Obligatory Crowd-Holding-Up-Lights-Because-They’re-Instructed-To-Do-So Moment
[9:00] Oh, and you thought Tron had disappeared, didn’t you?
[9:40] Prince is made taller — perhaps by default — by projecting his shadow onto a giant billowing bedsheet. The shape of his guitar next to his hips makes for some interesting shadows, ones that might have made a few censors a little nervous about the FCC’s reaction in the aftermath of Janet Jackson’s halftime show years ago.
[10:50] Mechanical doves hover over the stage. Search lights permeate the night. Prince continues to reign.
[10:57] Improbably, when the band cuts out, a majority of the football-jersey-wearing fans joins Prince in echoing the falsetto ending of “Purple Rain.” Amazing.
[11:28] Enough pyrotechnics are set off to make the Fourth of July jealous.
[11:52] After a well-deserved ovation for Prince, the YouTube clip mercifully cuts off before some producer nobody cares about takes credit for Prince’s epic show.
(Associated Press file photo by Jennifer Graylock)