Each year, the annual Super Bowl attracts a massive audience at home and abroad, ranking second only to the UEFA Champions League final as the most-watched annual sporting event worldwide. Yet it’s not all about the sport. The best Super Bowl halftime shows have played host to spellbinding performances from the best rock and pop superstars over the past three decades.
The Rolling Stones (Detroit, 2006)
Satisfaction guaranteed with the legendary group also tearing through ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Rough Justice’.
Prince (Miami Gardens, Florida, 2007)
Torrential – rather than purple – rain threatened to make Prince’s Super Bowl XLI halftime performance a wash out. No problem for one of the world’s greatest live performers, who shrugged off organisers’ concerns with one question: “Can you make it rain harder?”
Whipping up his own storm on a lit-up, symbol-shaped stage, Prince defied the elements to unleash ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Baby I’m A Star’ and ‘Purple Rain’, chucking Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and Foo Fighters’ ‘Best Of You’ in for good measure. Come the finale, a full marching band had taken to the pitch, Prince had cycled through four guitars – one of which suffered water damage thanks to the strength of the rain – and 93 million people had witnessed a performance that is still being hailed as one of the all-time best Super Bowl halftime shows.
Lady Gaga (Houston, 2017)
Also featuring groups of hundreds of lighted drones in the sky over Houston’s NRG Stadium, Lady Gaga’s set included tracks from her album Joanne and an impassioned cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’. The NFL claims it to be the “most watched musical event of all-time”, citing global viewing figures of 150 million.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Glendale, Arizona, 2008)
The incomparable Tom Petty at full tilt, slashing and burning through a four-song set including a yearning ‘Free Fallin’’ and a supercharged ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’.
Katy Perry With Lenny Kravitz & Missy Elliott (Glendale, Arizona, 2015)
Katy Perry entered the Guinness Book Of Records two days after her critically-acclaimed Super Bowl halftime show, which attracted a record 118.5 million viewers – becoming the most-watched domestic television broadcast in history in the process.
Michael Jackson (Pasadena, 1993)
A barnstormer that set the bar for anyone else looking to compete with the best Super Bowl halftime shows: the self-styled King Of Pop performing an awesome mini-set including ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Black Or White’ and ‘We Are The World’. After this, the NFL actively pursued pop’s top names for their halftime shows.
Diana Ross (Tempe, Arizona, 1996)
Boyz II Men, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha & The Vandellas, Queen Latifah (San Diego, 1998)
An all-star Motown extravaganza, culminating with the artists performing a show-stopping finale of ‘Dancing In The Street’ with the GSU Marching Band.
U2 (New Orleans, 2002)
In tribute to those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, U2 performed an emotional, well-chosen mini-set featuring ‘Beautiful Day’, hymn of peace ‘MLK’ and ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’.
Paul McCartney (Jacksonville, Florida, 2005)
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (Tampa, Florida, 2009)
Tailor-made to slay stadiums, The Boss and his loyal cohorts rampage through a quartet of all-American classics including ‘Glory Days’ and ‘Born To Run’.
Madonna With MIA, Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green, LMFAO (Indianapolis, 2012)
This Madonna spectacular visualised by theatrical company Cirque Du Soleil and choreographer Jamie King set a new record for Super Bowl viewing figures, attracting 114 million viewers – reputedly more people than those watching the game itself.
Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child (New Orleans, 2013)
Highly acclaimed performance which attracted major social media interest, generating more than 299,000 tweets per minute – at the time reportedly the second most tweeted moment in the history of Twitter.
Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson and Nelly (Houston, Texas, 2004)
Not necessarily one of the best, but arguably the most controversial (and therefore memorable) halftime show to date, this Texan extravaganza is written in history thanks to Justin Timberlake inadvertently revealing Janet Jackson’s right breast – which was festooned with a metal star. Appropriately, the incident took place during a climactic version of ‘Rock Your Body’.