Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ surprisingly subdued Super Bowl halftime show was as uncomplicated in person as it looked on television. There were no wardrobe – or any other kind – of malfunctions. Moments before the performance, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers calmly waited on the Patriots’ side of the field. Once given the go signal, the musicians quickly took the stage, picked up their instruments and started performing. They made playing a concert for about 100 million people look almost effortless.
On the field, it was impossible to tell that the illuminated stage was heart shaped or that a large arrow was headed straight for it at the beginning of Petty’s by-the-book rendition of “American Girl.” The visual effect wasn’t broadcast on the jumbotron. There were other illusions at play, too.
That cross-sectioned crowd of moms, dads and teenagers didn’t descend from the stands to spontaneously rock out at Petty’s feet. No, they had been assembled just outside of the University of Phoenix Stadium, waiting for their moment on the field since the start of the game in a long line reminiscent of an “American Idol” audition.
However, the audience did actually sing-along when Petty launched into “I Won’t Back Down.” That wasn’t fake, although the screens featuring the words behind Petty seemed slightly unnecessary. Everyone sang like they already knew them.
When the stadium lights dimmed for “Free Fallin,'” those weren’t lighters the audience just happened to have in their pockets, ready to whip out in unison for some groovy ambiance. They were actually tiny flashlights that had been previously distributed among the crowd. Hey, free souvenir!
The most spontaneous moment during the halftime performance didn’t even make it on TV – and it probably happens every year. After Petty closed the halftime show with “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” the mob assembled around the stage confusingly ran off in all directions as stagehands frantically disassembled the stage at the same time.
It was the craziest part of the whole evening – except for the part when the Giants won.