Why Prince’s Performance Remains The Greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show Ever (Video)
In 1993, Michael Jackson was the biggest Pop star on the planet when he performed at January 31’s Super Bowl XXVII’s halftime show. The prior year, In Living Color broadcast right at halftime. For football Heads watching the game on CBS, a reported 22 million viewers clicked over to FOX to see what Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier and others had in store. To counter such moves in the future, ’93 was the first time that a renowned music legend was booked for the big game’s intermission, and it set the bar extremely high. Especially in a blowout game (the Dallas Cowboys would go on to defeat the Buffalo Bills 52-17), the Dangerous medley of “Jam” and “Black Or White” (complete with audience cards), and a legacy hit, “Billie Jean” may be (for some) more memorable than the game itself.
In the 25 years since there has been a myriad of legendary halftime show performances. From Rock & Roll Hall of Famers and Pop’s biggest superstars, performers such as Madonna, U2, Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson, and Beyoncé have graced that stage. But, the most unforgettable halftime show in the game’s history was from the King Of Pop’s musical rival: Prince.
The late reclusive guitar deity performed on February 4, 2007, at Super Bowl XLI when the Indianapolis Colts played the Chicago Bears in Miami, Florida. For months, speculation swirled that The Purple One was in negotiations to be the draw for the game. The football match was tilted early by the favored Peyton Manning-led Colts, with few highlights to account in his team’s eventual 29-17 victory. For what was expected to be a typical sunny day in Miami, fans and media personalities inside Dolphin Stadium were drenched by a torrential downpour with high winds. A South Florida retreat turned to slipping and sliding players on the field, and raincoats and ponchos in the stands. However, the setting was one of perfection to befit Prince’s performance of a lifetime before a Nielsen-reported 93 million viewers around the world.
In a behind-the-scenes video, it is revealed that Prince welcomed the rain for his performance. “Can you make it rain harder,” the icon joked, when being briefed of the conditions by event supervisors. The rainstorm did not prevent dancers in high heels from flanking Prince with spinning routines, or fans taking to the then-muddied field as planned. Producers reveal that Prince’s stage “was made out of a very slick tile, that when it got wet, was even more slippery.”
Prince looked un-phased by the precipitation and wore a sky blue suit with his customized purple Axe Heaven PR-285 guitar in hand for his set. It began with a cover of Queen’s sports arena staple “We Will Rock You,” before he flawlessly shredded his Purple Rain hit “Let’s Go Crazy.” Thereafter, Prince played more covers: Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” Bob Dylan’s Folk Rock standard “All Along The Watchtower,” and Foo Fighters’ “The Best of You.” Then came his own song, “Baby, I’m a Star,” flanked by the Florida A&M Marching Band no less. But by the time Prince took off his blue sport coat to poetically perform his 1984 magnum opus “Purple Rain,” he reached a new plateau. For a song approaching its 23rd birthday, Prince may have delivered its finest (and most cinematic) live rendition. Former Editor-in-Chief of Spin and VIBE Alan Light points out that Prince used the weather almost as a planned special effect for his show. The Twin Cities legend involved the crowd with the song and closed out his monumental concert.
Prince (an avid Minnesota Vikings fan who recorded a “Purple & Gold” fight song) brought his guitar wizardry and commanding vocal performance to the big stage. In an era of corporate sponsorship, the concert felt artful and authentic. Instead of playing from his newly-released #1 album, he played songs that he knew would resonate with the crowd. Prince was not above covers, but he made sure to play them in a way that only he could.
On sports’ biggest night, Prince delivered a concert that felt just as mammoth. Approaching two years after the tragic loss of The Purple One, halftime may never be the same.
#BonusBeat: Prince’s full Super Bowl XLI halftime show performance:
Additional Reporting by Jake Paine.