New York – Nobody, but nobody was worried when Paul McCartney stripped off his jacket midway through his halftime performance at the Super Bowl. All he revealed was a long-sleeved red shirt. Nothing malfunctioned. And if he wore any nipple jewelry, he mercifully kept it to himself.
NFL officials wanted a safe halftime show after last year’s Janet Jackson fiasco, and McCartney delivered. It was sweet nostalgia for the people stunned by Jackson’s MTV-produced spectacle, if a bit off-putting for the kids: Each of his four songs was more than 30 years old.
Surely you recall last year’s climax to a body-shaking, crotch-grabbing festival: Justin Timberlake yanking part of Jackson’s top off to reveal her bare breast to some 90 million people viewers.
McCartney’s stage set – a giant cross of video boards on the stadium floor with the singer at the center – was visually arresting, although it made his opening song, “Drive My Car,” look like one of the broadcast’s dozens of auto commercials.
McCartney’s theatrical James Bond theme “Live and Let Die” was a perfect backdrop for a stadium fireworks show. The lights, placards and video images also made “Hey Jude” a sight to see, although it was odd to see the red, white and blue placards co-opt one of the original British musical invaders for an all-American event.
There wasn’t any danger of a lip-synch controversy, either: you could tell it was the lived-in voice of a 62-year-old singing.
It was strange seeing the former Beatle, a bold and shocking performer for another generation, now presented as the sedate option. NFL censors were probably hoping the “California grass” reference in “Get Back” slipped by unnoticed, or figured people would think he was simply referring to a football field.
Another irony: the overwhelmingly safe and patriotic musical presentations before and during the game appearing on the usually envelope-pushing Fox network, while last season’s shocker came on fogey-friendly CBS.
The closest thing to a wardrobe malfunction during all the performances came courtesy of country singer Gretchen Wilson’s guitar player. His jeans had a strategically placed rip in the crotch.
Before the game, Alicia Keys oozed both class and chops as she took a creepy concept – a duet with the late singer Ray Charles on one of his signatures, “America the Beautiful” – and made it work wonderfully. A picture of Charles singing appeared on the stadium scoreboard screens.
The pregame show was a mixture of old and new schools, with country, rap and soul. Wilson brought out white-bearded fiddle player Charlie Daniels, and the Black Eyed Peas had Earth, Wind & Fire along to sing “Shining Star.”
Although with the NFL watching so closely, it’s a wonder how Wilson’s “Here For the Party” managed to slip through.
“Gonna have a little fun,” she sang. “Gonna get me some.”
One can almost hear the small voices in living rooms across the country: “Daddy, what does ‘get me some’ mean?”
“Some chips, honey. Now pass the salsa and quiet down.”