Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show Comments

The build-up and anticipation for Tom Petty's performance was decidedly ... well, absent (I regularly forgot who was performing right up until the day of the game, and I know I'm not the only one who did). So it's only appropriate that the post-show buzz has been similarly subdued.

Then again, most of the post-game talk has been about the game itself, so it turned out that Petty didn't stand a chance. Prince had the good fortune to perform during one of the most boring SB matchups of the decade, a game in which the outcome was never really in doubt heading into the game or during it. Afterward, it was only natural to talk about him -- after all, Prince had a better day on the field than any of the players did.

But let's not talk about the game on Sunday. My local channel re-broadcasts football games on Monday nights, so I watched most of the game a second time. I suppose it was a form of catharsis. Like banging your head against a brick wall, most of the hurt is felt on the first strike. Numbness sets in for all subsequent hits and the pain subsides. The consensus on Petty is that he gave a Perfectly Acceptable Performance, but nothing more. He delivered the radio-friendly working-class rock that he's known for, but there was nothing distinctive or particularly memorable about it. Everything I would have mapped out in my head beforehand was exactly what we ended up seeing, right down to the faux-cigarette lighters "spontaneously" flaring during the opening verse of "Free Fallin'".

It all amounts to damning with faint praise, although I will easily side more on the "praise" side of the argument, mostly because the songs themselves are excellent and I always enjoy hearing them (except for possibly "Free Fallin'" -- I am beyond sick of that tune). The problem is that they were "Superbowl sized" tunes, i.e. crowd-stirring anthems that will rock a stadium (and TV audience) of casual listeners and spit them out the other side of thirteen minutes all revved up and ready for more football. "American Girl" was a treat for an opener, but cryogenic cooling of the energy in the stadium set in with "I Won't Back Down". Fantastic song, yes, one of Petty's best, and a personal favourite of mine by *any* artist. But as SB halftime show entertainment, it was deflating. I completely understand the need to play hits that are known to a maximum number of males under 40, but that doesn't make it any more suitable for the context. The arcing fireworks at the end of "Free Fallin'" were a feeble attempt to create a U2 moment, and "Running Down A Dream" seemed to rock a lot harder when I was fifteen.

It looks like I was more long-winded that I expected to be, but again, I'm trying my best to avoid thinking about the game.

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