Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Superbowl XLIII - Halftime Breakdown

First off, let me begin by saying that Superbowl 43; when you factor in the 100-yard interception-return-for-a-touchdown-with-no-time-left-on-the-clock-by-an-undrafted-Kent-State-product (WAR GOLDEN FLASHES!), followed by the exceeding-all-impossibly-high-expectations halftime show, and culminating in Larry Fitzgerald's ridiculous 65-yard gallop only to be outdone by Kordel Stewart's... err, Santonio Holmes'... inconceivably ridiculous (there simply aren't superlatives enough) grab in the corner of the endzone; has to go down as the finest Superbowl on record. Toss in the fact that my buddies and I were partying in the man cave of the Jimmy Kimmel of Toronto's West End (Brontosaurus-sized ribs smoking over hickory on the grill for 8 hours!), and you have a recipe for one of the finest Sundays in recent memory.

And as for that halftime show? I have to say, I hold The Boss in a slightly different regard than most others. I wasn't sure what to expect as far as this particular 12-minute showcase, because as much as I'd like to believe that the man is still capable of pulling off the kinds of shows that customarily rocked the Agora Ballroom circa 1978, the fact is: The Boss is quickly approaching 60.

I was genuinely worried that he'd play too much of the new album, that he'd give in and play "Born in the USA" (a decidedly anti-American song that more often than not gets misconstrued as a second anthem), or that he'd slip a disc trying to jump up on the piano. But more than anything else, I was worried about how impossible it would be to jam everything from one of the band's legendary 3-hour performances into a 12-minute set. How would it come off on live TV? Would the entire enterprise wind up looking like a complete mockery of what a Springsteen show is supposed to be about?

As always, I should never have doubted the man.

From the opening sequence (loved the players introducing the band!) and the initial shot of Bruce and The Big Man reminiscent of the Born To Run cover, it was aparent that this was a show, not simply for network TV and to sell some albums, but a show geared at all of the die-hard fans as well. How else do you explain opening with "10th Avenue Freeze Out"? An absolutely perfect choice, a great way to introduce the band and to get the Miami Horns involved, and a tip of the cap to the fans who have been there since the beginning.

Even though they were forced to eliminate the second verse from every track, the songs still felt fresh and complete, and as raucous and rocking as ever. Born To Run blew the lid off the place, and I love the fact that they only played about 90 seconds worth of "Working on a Dream" (not exactly the best song off the new album). Finishing with "Glory Days" was a stroke of genius, and I literally received countless text messages and emails from Dotcomrades the world over, congratulating my dad for the prediction that he couldn't have nailed any more perfectly ("I had a friend was a big football player...").

The Boss literally threw the kitchen sink into these 12 minutes. Every single old school trick in the book was put on display: hopping on the piano; dropping to his knees and hopping back up on his tippy-toes (perfect foreshadowing for the Santonio grab); using the mic stand as... ahem... "leverage"; the old school "dick slide" into the camera (watching this in HD slo-mo was unquestionably one of the 5 funniest things I have ever seen); sharing the mic with Silvio; the guitar twirl at the end... The man did it all.

And sure, some of it was cheezy (the chicken fingers reference; the Hail Mary reference {displaying his complete lack of any football acumen whatsoever}; the referee calling the delay of game...). But the fact is, Springsteen recognizes the inherent cheeziness of playing the Superbowl halftime show, and rather than trying to fight it, he just ran with it. I guess if you're gonna go cheezy, you might as well go all the way. And I love the "I'm going to Disneyland!" at the end. If that doesn't indicate the man's ability to laugh at himself, nothing does.

Again, I hold the man to a different standard than most others. But I really couldn't have been happier with the way everything came off. And judging by the reactions of most of the other Springsteen fans I've heard from over the past two days (both die-hard and fairweather alike), I'd say that I'm not far off my assessment of Sunday's achievement as being the greatest in the history of Superbowl Halftime performances.

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