Since I didn't care one iota about the game itself, a lot was riding on the Super Bowl halftime show tonight. This apparently was true for Bruce Springsteen himself. On Friday, at a rare press conference, he admitted he didn't know a thing about football, though he reckoned that he used to throw the ball around - back in 1958. But as I wrote here two days ago, I go back with Bruce to 1972, and helped write the first ever magazine article about him then (and he is featured in my new book), so I had high interest in this once (very) unlikely gig.
So how did it go tonight, with the E Street Band, famously limited to exactly 12 minutes -- with Bruce asserting that he would make every 1/16 of a second count (and some calling for him to inject a little politics in it)? It was especially tricky since the boys had to follow an incredible 100-yard interception run back.
Well, they done good, and Bruce even worked in a football reference, laughing at himself, substituting a baseball line in "Glory Days" with, "He could throw a...Hail Mary pass."
It was kind of a retro show with the first two songs from the mid-'70s, "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" and "Born to Run, " and the final "Glory Days" from the '80s, with an oddly truncated "Working on a Dream" from his new album in the #3 slot. Somehow a big gospel choir got on and off the stage for that in three minutes. It was crowded already with a full horn section.
As for politics, there was no "Promised Land" or "The Rising" or others in that vein -- this was all for fun. No Pete Seeger this time. Las Vegas had a betting line going on which songs Bruce would pick, and these were pretty safe picks for anyone paying attention in recent days (The Boss said he just wanted to promote his new CD).
The whole thing kicked off with Bruce and Clarence in silhouette, and then Bruce promising, "We're going to be righteous" but everyone better "step back from the guacamole" and "put your chicken fingers down" and turn the TV "all the way up...Is anybody alive out there tonight?"
The band members were all in black, with Bruce in black shirt and black vest. The usual smoke and flares provided backdrop with an arm waving, singing along crowd in front of the stage. Bruce at the close of one number slid on his knees, groin first, into the camera (ouch).
After a great "Glory Days," Bruce looked at his watch, said to Steve "SIlvio" Van Zandt, "Steve, it's quitting time...it's going to be penalty time." Sure enough a zebra/ref came out to throw a flag for delay of game.
But Steve said, "It's Boss time," so they played another 30 seconds before Bruce shouted, "I'm going to Disneyland!"
Greg Mitchell's latest book, just published, is "Why Obama Won". It's the first "progressive" book on the campaign and includes a few looks at Springsteen's work for Obama.