2007 / Music

Prince Battles Elements, Time Limits During Halftime Show

Purple One Performs Covers-Filled Medley

It wasn’t purple, but the tropical rain that soaked Prince and all of those inside Miami’s Dolphin Stadium on Sunday night was an unintended and probably unwelcome special effect for the Super Bowl Halftime show.

Photo: CBS

Photo: CBS

Fighting the constant downpour, Prince bravely tried to prove you can still get funky while the rain is ruining your hairdo.

“I only want to see you in the purple rain,” he sang. “Don’t it feel good?”

From the vantage point of a TV camera lens blurred by rain drops, it certainly didn’t. But, the soggy weather wasn’t the only problem confronting one of pop music’s most multi-faceted stars. Prince also had to do battle with the tight time constraints of commercial TV.

As in past half-time extravaganzas, which have starred the likes of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, Prince felt compelled to cram an entire set of songs into less than 10 minutes. It was a clashing medley, a rapid succession of truncated hits that ended much too soon. Amid fireworks, a glow-in-the-dark college marching band and twin dancers slithering around him, Prince’s speedy performance was probably similar to his recent run of Las Vegas shows.

But, if you expect the Purple One’s new-found openness to the big-time glitz of Vegas is a signal that he’s surrendered to ’80s nostalgia, you’d be wrong.

While his performance was bookended by his two biggest hits from the “Purple Rain” era, he toyed with audience expectations by running through some surprising covers during the melee of songs. He started with a bit of Queen’s perennial stadium-anthem “We Will Rock You,” quoted Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” (sped up like Ike and Tina Turner’s version of the song), attempted a slow, bluesy take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” (and unleashed menacing groans from his guitar to suggest Jimi Hendrix’s own famous rendition) and rocked out a couple of verses of a powerful rearrangement of the Foo Fighters’ “Best Of You.”

Once, Prince sang, “I could never steal from another,” but in this instance, the covers highlighted Prince’s musical dexterity, the panorama of his influences and offered something safe and vaguely familiar to those macho sports fans who would’ve preferred to see Garth Brooks. It’s doubtful that a performance of “Kiss” or “Cream” would have gone over as well.

Decked out in an aqua-colored suit with a black, silky kerchief on his head, Prince looked like a ’70s Little Richard. He prowled along the damp stage — shaped like the unpronounceable gender symbol that was his name back in the ’90s — frequently showboating with some guitar pyrotechnics that were intended to wow as much as the firework explosions that ringed the stage and the stadium.

Prince took the most liberties with his guitar work as he played his own material. During “Let’s Go Crazy,” he powerfully strummed his Telecaster guitar and then digressed into a screed of notes and made faces like he was Carlos Santana.

The guitar heroics continued when he strapped on a guitar shaped like his personal symbol and concluded with the thoroughly appropriate power ballad, “Purple Rain.” Tossing off his head scarf, he howled into the microphone and then knocked it aside as he enlisted the doused crowd to sing along on the song’s closing refrain.

“Purple Rain” is no “Hey Jude,” but the stadium of fans responded accordingly.

Prince certainly fared better than Billy Joel, who also battled light rain as well as a few stray notes while delivering the National Anthem. His performance was just the first of many fumbles that plagued this Super Bowl.

Dressed in a tuxedo, Joel gave a mellow but stately reading of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Had Joel not sung a few sour notes, his rendition would have been a refreshingly low-key interpretation as opposed to the gut-busting aria that so many other performers turn the song into. But because of the slipups, Joel’s performance came across like he was out of his league.

Prince, on the other hand, scored points as he confronted the elements. As uncomfortable as the rain was to perform in, it was a fitting backdrop and likely the only visual that the Halftime show organizers could never engineer for him.

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2007 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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