The Tremendous Bowl half-time present is historically constructed on grand gestures and eye-popping spectacle.
Take into consideration Girl Gaga diving off the roof of Houston’s NRG stadium, or Katy Perry driving an animatronic lion, or Diana Ross hovering out of Arizona’s Solar Satan Stadium, waving to followers via the open door of a helicopter.
This yr was a bit of completely different.
Canadian R&B star The Weeknd was the interval act and, for the primary time within the sport’s 55-year historical past, he was largely compelled to carry out from the stands, quite than the pitch, in compliance with strict coronavirus protocols.
And his 12-minute present was “watched” by 1000’s of cardboard cut-outs, who bulked out the 25,000 socially-distanced followers at Florida’s Raymond James Stadium.
However the 30-year-old made the many of the restrictions with a gimmick-free present that put the emphasis on his songs.
The star, whose actual title is Abel Tesfaye, carried out nearly all of his set in entrance of a set modelled on town in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – all vertical layers and neon indicators.
Because the opening bars of Starboy rang out, the cityscape parted to disclose the singer, bathed in gentle, performing surrounded by a choir of red-eyed automatons.
Aside from a couple of Michael Jackson-inspired dance strikes, he saved the concentrate on his vocals with a dramatic transforming of The Hills, earlier than grabbing a digital camera and disappearing right into a backstage maze of lights and mirrors.
Jostled and buffeted by two dozen dancers in full facial bandages, he carried out a dizzying model Cannot Really feel My Face, earlier than rising again into the stadium for a firework-assisted model of I Really feel It Coming.
The motion moved onto the enjoying area for the finale – a medley of Home of Balloons and Blinding Lights – sung on to the digital camera, with out the same old requirement for stunts, visitor stars or marching band interludes.
Tesfaye, who spent $7m (£5m) of his personal cash on the manufacturing, clearly felt it was finest to let the music communicate for itself.
He even lined up a biggest hits album to coincide with the Tremendous Bowl, which is historically the most-watched occasion of the yr on US tv. (Final yr’s half-time present, starring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez was watched by 103 million viewers, greater than the 99.9 million who tuned in for the sport itself.)
Earlier than Sunday evening, there was a sense that The Weeknd’s dark-hued R&B may very well be an uncomfortable match for a present that usually requires uplifting, crowd-pleasing anthems like Prince’s Purple Rain or Madonna’s Like A Prayer.
However Tesfaye correctly constructed the set round his extra optimistic songs – together with Save Your Tears and Earned It – whereas the hovering melody of Blinding Lights was a suitably euphoric nearer.
In different phrases, he pulled it off, proving how badly The Grammys dropped the ball by snubbing him on this yr’s nominations.
Which raises the query of how his set would have appeared in a standard yr. The possibilities are, it could have been much more elaborate. Talking at a press convention earlier than Sunday evening’s present, the singer spoke in awed tones of the aforementioned Ross-o-copter.
“I want I may have accomplished that, I want I might considered it,” he mentioned. “Though I do not suppose I have the funds for to do it, to be sincere.”
Which songs did he play?
The marketing campaign for The Weeknd’s latest album, After Hours, has revolved round a bloodied and bandaged character “having a extremely dangerous evening”.
The story began with the video for Heartless. Impressed by Hunter S Thompson’s Concern And Loathing In Las Vegas, it noticed the star staggering across the casinos and fountains of Sin Metropolis, ingesting to extra and licking a hallucinogenic toad earlier than trying to flee.
The video for Blinding Lights picked up the narrative, with the singer drunkenly swerving via the abandoned metropolis, whereas flashing again to an incident in a nightclub that left him with blood pouring down his face.
Over subsequent TV appearances and music movies, the visuals grew increasingly more gory. Tesfaye was decapitated within the video for In Your Eyes; whereas in Too Late, his head was grafted onto one other individual’s physique.
Then, in final month’s Save Your Eyes, his facial bandages have been unpeeled to disclose heavily-exaggerated facial prosthetics. Everybody else within the video wore masks and bandages – a theme Tesfaye carried over to the Tremendous Bowl efficiency.
Chatting with Selection final week, the singer defined the inspiration for the year-long storyline.
“The importance of the whole head bandages is reflecting on the absurd tradition of Hollywood superstar and other people manipulating themselves for superficial causes to please and be validated,” he mentioned.
“It is all a development and we watch The Character’s storyline hit heightened ranges of hazard and absurdity as his story goes on.”
Who else performed at this yr’s Tremendous Bowl?
Wearing a pink-and-black cheerleader outfit, Miley Cyrus kicked off the official pre-game present with a canopy of Toni Basil’s Oh Mickey.
“That is my first present in a few yr,” the star advised the viewers, which comprised greater than 7,000 vaccinated healthcare staff, “and I could not think about a greater manner to do that.
“We’re so appreciative of you and all of your diligence. And for that, we’ll rock laborious!”
Her raucous set blended hits like We Cannot Cease, Nothing Breaks Like A Coronary heart and Prisoner with basic get together tracks like Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Blondie’s Coronary heart Of Glass.
She even invited out 80s rockers Joan Jett and Billy Idol – each of whom seem on her latest album Plastic Hearts – for a sequence of duets.
Forward of kick-off, 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman – who gained rave critiques for her studying at President Joe Biden’s inauguration – recited one other authentic poem.
Refrain Of The Captains celebrated warfare veteran James Martin, trainer Trimaine Davis, and nurse supervisor Suzie Dorner – who have been chosen by the NFL as “honorary captains” for this yr’s sport.
“Whereas we honour them right this moment, it’s they daily who honour us,” mentioned Gorman’s poem, which detailed their efforts to assist at-risk kids and susceptible sufferers.
R&B singer H.E.R. added a pyrotechnic guitar solo to her rendition of America the Lovely, whereas the nationwide anthem was carried out as a duet between Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan.