What the Super Bowl 41 Halftime Show Tells Us About Greatness

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and I must admit I am a bit ambivalent about the game when neither the Steelers nor Eagles are involved - unless there is some compelling storyline that should be followed. Another reason to tune in is for the halftime show, which for quite awhile was THE marquee live performance event of the year. Only the titans of the music industry get invited to play the halftime show: Bruce Springsteen, U2, Prince, Tom Petty, The Who, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and the list goes on and on.

But of those performances, on the biggest stage in the world, some were pretty good, some were terrible, and occasionally one or two performances were transcendent. Of the dozens of Super Bowls and halftime shows I’ve seen, only one stands out as truly great - Prince’s performance in the driving rain at Dolphin Stadium in Miami at Super Bowl 41 in 2007. That band and that performance - in my humble opinion - will live forever.

I won’t recount all of the circumstances, because those have been ably documented elsewhere (the documentary below does a pretty good job of setting the stage).

What is really notable about Prince’s performance here is that it tells us something significant about live performance. Great performances are few and far between, unless you are at the top of your craft and in complete command of your ensemble, your instrument and the audience. A transcendent performance, like Prince in a driving rainstorm at Super Bowl 41, is a rare thing indeed.

It is the rarity of this level of performance is that makes it special. You can remember standing there looking at the TV, watching it unfold and being transfixed by it all. If this kind of thing happened everyday, you would soon stop appreciating it and move on to the next thing.

There is a trend among concert promoters and bands these days to relive, recreate and repackage the past. You can sell tickets to just about any tribute band performance nowadays, no matter how atrocious the musicianship or presentation is. There are many pretenders out there.

If you have read this far, you do care about these things. If you are a student of mine, current or former, and have read this far, you know by now I want YOU to be a great one in your own way. Be a great one, and be original. Demand that of yourself overtime you pick up the sticks or mallets. This is what propels the art form forward.