The Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows

With Super Bowl 51 Sunday upon us, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of my favorite halftime shows.

Having grown up in a country where at least at the time American football was an afterthought, I must admit the sport remains an acquired taste to me to this day. However, what attracted me from the very first time I watched the spectacle on TV in addition to the ads were the halftime shows.

An impressive array of music artists have performed at the Super Bowl over the years. Typically, the gigs only last for about 13 minutes, which is barely enough time for four songs or so. This means performers need to figure out how to stick to the tight time limit while making their fans happy – not an easy task!

Most artists end up rearranging tunes to make them tighter and playing medleys. Following are some of my favorite Super Bowl halftime shows I caught over the years. And, yes, this list is skewed!:-)

The Who (Super Bowl XLIV, Miami, Feb 7, 2010)

Drawing from the Tommy, Who’s Next and Who Are You albums, the set list featured some of the band’s best known classics, including Pinball Wizard, Baba O’Riley, Who Are You, See Me, Feel Me and Won’t Get Fooled Again. When I saw The Who a couple of years ago, it was if time had stood still. These guys continue to bring it. Here is a nice clip of their Super Bowl performance.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Super Bowl XLIII, Tampa, Feb 1, 2009)

This must have been one of shortest gigs for the Boss who is of course notorious for delivering one-of-a-kind rock & roll marathons. It may have been short, but Springsteen sure as heck delivered! He mostly stuck to crowd-pleasing classics and also threw in what was a newer song at the time. The set list included Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Born to Run, Working on a Dream and Glory Days. You can all watch it again below.

The Rolling Stones (Super Bowl XL, Detroit, Feb 5, 2006)

Similar to the Boss, the Stones opted to combine two of their biggest hits with one of their then newer songs: Start Me Up, Rough Justice and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. While the band delivered a solid performance, their gig became more known for Mick Jagger’s mic being dialed down during two lines of the lyrics of Start Me Up and Rough Justice.  Feeling the lines could be viewed as offensive, the NFL decided not to take any chances and censored the songs, following the uproar over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl 2004 halftime show. From today’s perspective, it all looks pretty laughable. Watch part I (Start Me Up & Rough Justice) and part II (Satisfaction) of the Stones’ performance below.

Paul McCartney (Super Bowl XXXIX, Jacksonville, Fla, Feb 6, 2005)

Paul McCartney is an amazing live performer and gives me a thrill each time I see him play. Once again, he did not disappoint. His set focused on crowd-pleasers, mostly featuring Beatles songs, and one of his biggest successes with the Wings: Drive My Car, Get Back, Live and Die and Hey Jude. Here’s a great clip of the show, including the usual fireworks spectacle during Live and Let Die.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube