Top 10 Super Bowl Halftime Performances



Madonna performs during the halftime show for Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants defeated the Patriots, 21-17. (Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT)

By John Loop
Staff Writer

Madonna performs during the halftime show for Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants defeated the Patriots, 21-17. (Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT)

Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance in 1993 revolutionized halftime shows at the Super Bowl. Before this, it was much more like a college game halftime with marching bands in many of the previous Super Bowls. After Madonna’s dazzling performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl, I began compiling a list of the game’s all-time great productions. Without further ado, here are the top10 halftime performances of the “Big Game.”

10. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake – Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2004, Reliant Stadium in Houston

Who will ever be able to forget the infamous “wardrobe malfunction”? Janet made her presence on stage a powerful one, with her wide array of dancers as well as her stage design at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Her entrance set the tone for the entire performance, singing the opening line of “All for You” behind a ringed curtain before it dropped to the stage, revealing Jackson in her full glory.

After she finished her second number, “Rhythm Nation,” Timberlake popped up and started right into “Rock Your Body.” Right as he finished with the words “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,” he “accidentally” ripped part of Jackson’s costume off, exposing her right breast. CBS was fined a hefty $550,000 for airing the mishap.

9. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – Super Bowl XLIII, 2009, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay

When “The Boss” told you to step away from the chips and guacamole, turn up the TV and let the E Street Band into your home, you didn’t have to think twice.

Springsteen with the late Clarence Clemons on the saxophone made an inseparable pair. The group’s renditions of hits like “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” (which included Springsteen’s signature slide along the stage on his knees), “Working on a Dream,” and his most known track, “Glory Days,” worked his magic on the audience.

8. KISS – Super Bowl XXXIII, 1999, Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens

Although they only performed one song during the pregame show, Gene Simmons and his band of rabble-rousers provided plenty of entertainment for the thousands of fans on hand. “The Demon” and his gang rocked the stage with a roaring rendition of “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

The ever-present pyrotechnics added flare to the performance as well. This is probably the blandest show on this list, but, since KISS was an integral part of the music industry, it would be hard not to include them.

7. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Super Bowl XLII, 2008, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale

Petty and the Heartbreakers are one of the best bands to hear live in concert. When he and his band stepped on stage, the crowd went wild.

Petty launched the band into “American Girl,” and then transitioned into a classic, “Won’t Back Down.” Petty and the band then revisited their original pace with “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” The show culminated with “Free Fallin’,” which had the fans hold up pre-given flashlights and wave them to the beat.

6. Rolling Stones – Super Bowl XL, 2006, Ford Field in Detroit

The Stones’ hit “Start Me Up” did just that, firing up the crowd attending the game. As they moved into their other two numbers, “Rough Justice” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the band seemed to gain energy to build into their climax at the end of their show.

Being one of the most iconic rock legends of the 20th Century, the Stones are undoubtedly one of the best shows that the Super Bowl has ever seen.

5. The Who – Super Bowl XLIV, 2010, Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens

Who are they? Their performance said it all. Lead vocalist Pete Townshend proved he still had it at age 64, and the entire band shook the stadium. Playing a medley of songs that included “Pinball Wizard,” “Who Are You,” and “Baba O’Riley,” the Who demonstrated that the English do, sometimes, do it better than their neighbors from “across the pond.” The show ended perfectly, with a spectacular light show from the band’s well-known track, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

4. Paul McCartney – Super Bowl XXXIX, 2005, ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville

McCartney’s mash-up of the Beatles and his own music was the perfect tribute to the band that made him a big-time musician. The classic James Bond song “Live and Let Die,” McCartney’s hits “Drive My Car” and “Get Back,” and his serenade to John Lennon’s son, Julian, “Hey Jude” were included in the set list.

3. Prince – Super Bowl XLI, 2007, Dolphins Stadium in Miami Gardens

You can put Prince against any of the music industry’s hottest stars today and there would be no question about who had more talent. All the vocal and musical talent of one of music’s most influential artists was put in the national spotlight.

The “Purple Rain” was coming down hard as Prince jammed to “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Baby I’m A Star,” “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and “Best of You.”

2. Michael Jackson – Super Bowl XXVII, 1993, Rose Bowl in Pasedena

It is utterly disheartening that the entire world can’t witness performances like this anymore. The King of Pop was his usual self, belting out a small number of his large list of hits, including “Jam,” “Billie Jean,” “Black or White,” and “Heal the World.” The fact that Jackson is no longer with us makes this performance a whole lot more special in the hearts of his fans.

1. U2 – Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002, Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans

The Irish band is responsible for one of the most heartfelt performances of the 2000s. The nation was struggling during the short time after the terrorist attack on September 11th. Bono and the other band members were clearly making a strong effort to show the entire United States that there was hope. That was Bono’s main message.

After the opening song, “Beautiful Day,” a sheet dropped down from the rafters, and the names of every victim of the attacks was projected while the Irishman belted out “MLK,” and ended with “Where the Streets Have No Name.”  As the performance wound down, Bono lifted his jacket to reveal an American flag lining, symbolizing unity.

Unity is what the Big Game is supposed to be about, bringing your friends and family together to have a good time. All in all, the Super Bowl halftime show represents a fundamental link to pop culture, which helps broaden the interests of viewers all over the nation and the world.