Article 2009-02-01 Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

The Boss Takes Over Halftime, With a Few Edits but Little Imagination

To Bruce Springsteen’s credit, he made it clear from the start that his performance with the E Street Band at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday night was business, not personal.

“We have a new album coming out,” he said in a news conference Thursday. “We have our mercenary reasons, of course.” That album, “Working on a Dream” (Columbia), was released Tuesday. Presales for Springsteen’s coming tour with the E Street Band begin Monday.

Springsteen, now 59 and for many years the Boss, has had a good deal of face time lately, headlining a pre-inauguration concert last month for President Obama in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. But in his news conference, Springsteen seemed far more ambivalent about this performance, an opportunity he said he had passed up in previous years. In part, that’s because accepting the gig comes with built-in boundaries.

Five years have passed since the fateful day in Houston when, with the help of Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunctioned, revealing, in part, her nipple and, in whole, a puritan streak that has clouded subsequent Super Bowl halftime affairs.

And so while shilling does not carry the sting it once did, perhaps Springsteen let the weight of responsibility limit his imagination in his 12-minute set.

The Rolling Stones, in 2006, and Prince, in 2007, managed to inject spice and surprise into their performances. But Springsteen’s tweaks were far gentler and safer, poking fun at the event itself, and possibly at himself for participating in it.

He rose to the occasion, but never above it. And Springsteen, a reliable left-winger — when he described his band’s sound as “righteous,” it had a splash of double-meaning grit — didn’t use his platform to advocate for anything more pressing than louder volume.

“I want you to step back from the guacamole dip, I want you to put the chicken fingers down and turn your television all the way up,” he said, pointing into a camera. “And what I want to know is, is there anybody alive out there?”

Or maybe more specifically, is there anyone paying close enough attention to notice that in each of the band’s four songs — “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Born to Run,” “Working on a Dream” and “Glory Days” — verses were dropped altogether?

The edits didn’t prove to be a liability. Springsteen appeared in good cheer throughout, sliding across the stage on his knees (and into a camera) at the end of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” and singing a collegial duet with the guitarist Steven Van Zandt on an ecstatic “Glory Days.”

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was warm and bluesy, with Springsteen building up energy for “Born to Run,” which concluded with a spectacular burst of fireworks. For the measured “Working on a Dream,” Springsteen was backed, in triangle formation, by Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa (also Springsteen’s wife), all of them flanked by a gospel choir, the set’s most heavy-handed moment. (Springsteen’s performance was as notable for what he didn’t play — the reliable party anthem “Dancing in the Dark,” the cynical but hugely popular “Born in the U.S.A.”)

Lyrically, Springsteen made a couple of concessions to the event. In “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” he sang, “I’m going to sit back right easy and laugh, when Scooter and the Big Man” — that’s Springsteen and the saxophonist Clarence Clemons — “bust the Super Bowl in half.” (In the original, “this city” is cleaved.)

And on “Glory Days,” Springsteen changed the antihero of his opening verse from a baseball pitcher to a football quarterback. The “speedball” that could “make you look like a fool, boy,” became a “Hail Mary.”

It turns out the early protestations were overstated; this show wasn’t even close to the worst collision of art and commerce to occur between bursts of pigskin. That would be the Pepsi ad featuring Bob Dylan and the rapper-producer performing Dylan’s “Forever Young” (or the country music star Faith Hill singing, during the show’s introduction, “Super Bowl Sunday on NBC/Al and John” — Michaels and Madden, that is — “are the best on TV”).

But the final discomforts were all Springsteen’s. At the end of the show, he shouted inexplicably, “I’m going to Disneyland!” A moment earlier, a man dressed as a referee appeared on stage, threw a yellow flag and crossed his arms in front of Springsteen, the signal for delay of game. Springsteen mock fretted about the ticking clock, and Van Zandt protested, screaming, “It’s Boss time!” Except that it wasn’t, and everyone knew it.

By Jon Caramanica via The New York Times.

Bruce Springsteen Delivers On Super Bowl XLIII Party Promise

The Super Bowl isn’t simply about football. It’s about 100 million people buying into the dream, hoping that this uniquely American moment — a festival of corporate branding, organized violence and pure showbiz — can somehow save them, lift them from life for a while — from debt, fear and heartbreak.

On Sunday, they sought refuge in their living rooms, tapping into the pageantry in hi-def. And in the face of economic ruin, they still flocked to Tampa, Florida, by the thousands — some shelling out close to $2,000 for nosebleeds, others with shorter pockets content simply to bask in the shadow of the stadium, but all grasping at the dream.

Enter Bruce Springsteen.

He made good on his promise of a “12-minute party” Sunday night, lifting millions who sorely needed it. His opening act was a Super Bowl record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by the Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison, but Springsteen had some hard hits of his own on deck. He hit the stage, playfully demanding, “I want you to put your chicken fingers down and turn the television all the way up. (Check out photos of Springsteen’s Super Bowl set.)

“Is there anybody alive out there?” he shouted as he and the E Street Band dove into the rollicking “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” More than 70,000 who had been jeering, heckling and cajoling each other for hours were dancing, suddenly all revelers at Bruce’s party. He pushed the pedal closer to the floor with “Born To Run,” and raised the roof higher (with help from a backing choir) with the title track from his latest album, “Working on a Dream.” Finally, at last call, he brought out “Glory Days,” tweaking the lyrics and dropping in game-appropriate gridiron references. As the band brought it home, guitarist Steven Van Zandt quipped that they were beyond overtime, beyond penalty time and into “boss time.”

And in a flash of pyro, it was over. Man-made mesas of steel were wheeled away and a cast of hundreds scurried out of sight, returning the performance space to a playing field in a matter of minutes. “Boss time” was over and game time resumed (and damn, what a game), but for those of you who actually had money riding on it, that set was:

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
“Born To Run”
“Working on a Dream”
“Glory Days”

By Robert Mancini via Rolling Stone.
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