In the last few days after Super Bowl XLV, there has been much discussion about the halftime performance of the Black Eyed Peas. Our own Anthony Stalter was not a fan, and when I spoke to a few of the guys on my Tuesday night basketball team, they weren’t all that thrilled with the Peas either.
I am admittedly not a huge BEP fan, though I do like a few of the songs, especially “I Gotta Feeling” since my two-year old always marches and hops his way around our kitchen island whenever it comes on. I thought the halftime show was okay. Slash’s appearance was a nice surprise (though Fergie’s Axl Rose impersonation left a bit to be desired) and they did a nice job with lit-up dancers around the stage. However, if I never saw Usher perform again, I think I’d be all right with that.
It got me thinking — maybe I could lay some groundwork and help pick the artist/band to perform at next year’s Super Bowl.
Looking at this list of Super Bowl halftime shows, it’s interesting to note that the Super Bowl used marching bands up through most of the ’60s, ’70s and even the ’80s. It wasn’t until 1991 when the Super Bowl got a “big” name, when Disney produced a show that featured the New Kids on the Block. Through most of the ’90s, the halftime shows would feature a medley of acts, though Michael Jackson and Diana Ross did headline in 1993 and 1996, respectively.
After Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004 (produced by MTV), the powers-that-be went conservative over the next few years, booking Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones for the next two Super Bowls before going with Prince in 2007. His show was a bit risque as well (remember the shadow of his guitar?), so the Super Bowl followed up with Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and The Who before booking the Black Eyed Peas for 2011.
In many ways, the BEP booking makes sense. They’re mainstream enough that a vast majority of the SB audience would have heard at least one of their songs and they’re not going to risk the negative publicity by being particularly edgy or pushing the envelope in any way.
So where does that leave us? Most of the rock icons have already performed (adding U2, Sting, ZZ Top and Aerosmith to the previously mentioned classic rock acts), but a few names that jump out are AC/DC, the Eagles, Elton John and John Mellencamp. Since Super Bowl XLVI is in Indianapolis, an appearance by Mellencamp makes a lot of sense. AC/DC is probably too hard, though they could do a song or two as part of a medley of artists. The Eagles and Elton John are probably too soft to carry a halftime show by themselves.
What about a more contemporary artist?
Here are eight possibilities that make some sense, in increasing order of how much I’d like to see them get the gig (and what chance they’d have to pull it off if given the opportunity):
8. The Killers
Possible setlist: Somebody Told Me, Human, When We Were Young, All These Things I’ve Done, Mr. Brightside
The Killers have floundered a bit after their excellent debut, but are still putting out good singles from time to time. I suspect mainstream America has heard most of the five-song setlist I proposed — “Somebody Told Me” is a strong opener and “Human” is a pretty popular follow-up. And everyone knows “Mr. Brightside,” right?
Possible setlist: (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, Buddy Holly, Troublemaker, Keep Fishin’, Beverly Hills
Their recent albums haven’t been all that good, but Weezer was great in the ’90s and ’00s and has a good discography to pull from. “Beverly Hills” and “Buddy Holly” are signature songs from their respective decades that just about everyone knows. Still, there would probably have to be some sort of cameo to make this work. One thing’s for sure: Rivers Cuomo and Co. rock pretty hard.
6. Green Day
Possible setlist: Longview, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Holiday, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), When I Come Around
Green Day’s problem is that three of their most popular songs (Boulevard, Good Riddance, When September Ends) are down-tempo and another (American Idiot) is about George W. Bush, and isn’t complimentary. Still, with a few lyrical edits, Green Day could put together a nice five-song setlist that most of the SB audience would enjoy.
Possible setlist: Viva La Vida, Violet Hill, Lost!, Clocks, Fix You
I know, I know. Coldplay is “too soft” to play a halftime show. But you know what? They aren’t. Their first few albums were packed with ballads, but Viva La Vida has a few tunes (“Viva La Vida,” “Violet Hill” and “Lost!”) that play to the nosebleed seats. And “Fix You” starts off slow, but once that guitar kicks in at the 2:35 mark, I bet there will be more than a few Coldplay converts in the audience.
4. Pearl Jam
Possible setlist: Even Flow, The Fixer, Dissident, Given to Fly, Alive
I’m not sure Pearl Jam would ever agree to do the Super Bowl as they probably see it as too mainstream, but if they did, they’d put on one hell of a show. Plus they know everybody so it wouldn’t be hard to find another big name to make a cameo a la Slash at Super Bowl XLV. The setlist is a little tough because they have so many good songs, but they don’t have many (any?) signature songs in the last decade. Opening up and closing with “Even Flow” and “Alive” would be cool for those of us who played Ten to death.
Possible setlist: Where It’s At, Girl, Debra, E-Pro, Loser
Beck is a showman, so even though he doesn’t have any huge hits in the last five years, he could still pull off a good halftime show. The mere thought of Beck performing “Debra” (one of the greatest lost gems of the past two decades) to a Super Bowl audience sends a chill down my spine. And, of course, everyone knows “Where It’s At” and “Loser”; the latter serves as a great “is he going to play it?” closer.
2. Kings of Leon
Possible setlist: The Bucket, Notion, Fans, Back Down South, Use Somebody
Why do I have Kings of Leon at #2? I’ve loved these guys since 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood and I’m not going to stop loving them just because some blogger says they’ve gone to mainstream. (Stupid bloggers.) They have a signature song to close (“Use Somebody”) and “Back Down South” might be the best song that no one’s heard. Same goes for “Fans.” And “The Bucket” has a great opening riff. Seriously, turn it on and crank it up.
1. Talking Heads
Possible setlist: Once In a Lifetime, Life During Wartime, Take Me to the River, And She Was (or Wild Wild Life), Burning Down the House
Given all the bad blood within the band, the chances of a reunion happening are nil, but a man can dream, can’t he? (In other words, this is my freaking list so leave me alone.) Arguably the quintessential new wave band, the Heads haven’t played together since 2002, when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but if the Super Bowl can’t bring them back together, nothing will.