Let’s be honest, the Super Bowl Half Time show is one of the biggest highlights of the game, next to the ridiculous assortment of commercials. This year, Justin Timberlake will perform at the Pepsi LII Halftime Show, and we can only hope for the best for his third return to the famous Super Bowl stage. As music lovers, our bar is set higher than most as we expect top of the line production, incredible lighting, perfect sound, and above all else, a mind-blowing performance. Over the years we’ve witnessed a number of disappointing halftime performances, from frightful renditions of “It’s a Small World (After All)” to the ever popular nip slip… (fingers crossed JT keeps it together this year). Thankfully, the halftime show has become a bigger and more important part of this annual sporting event, showcasing rock ‘n’ roll icons overcoming unbelievable music production feats with mesmerizing light shows, choreography, and all the things us music lovers know, love, and truly appreciate. Witness “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen’s famous camera-crotch slam, Diana Ross being literally taken higher in a helicopter, and more with this list of half time shows that meet the standards of us die hard music fans.
1. Michael Jackson becomes the first pop icon to take the stage on January 31, 1993
With seven singles on Thriller topping charts at No. 1, and following the recent releases of Bad and Dangerous, Michael Jackson was ready to conquer absolutely everything and anything, and he did. The Jackson Five star made an incredible entrance as he started his set standing stone still for an entire 90 seconds, while crowds were roaring like never before. His statue act was so believable it had people questioning whether this was even really MJ or a wax figure. Michael secured his spot as King of Pop, as he rocked to fan favorites “Billie Jean” and “Black or White.”
2. Diana Ross earns her diva status on January 28, 1996
The onetime Supreme, Diana Ross graciously gave the crowd 15 minutes of classics, including “Stop in the Name of Love” and covers like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” before being whisked off the field, like a complete diva, to a booming “Take Me Higher.”
3. U2 warm the hearts of fans with rocking ballads on February 3, 2002
U2 took the stage at the Superdome in New Orleans to pay a beautiful tribute to the lives lost in the September 11 attacks. When “Where the Streets Have No Name” was played, the names of all the victims appeared onscreen, and Bono opened his jacket to reveal a lining of stars and stripes.
4. The Rolling Stones kick-start Super Bowl XL on February 5, 2006
The Rolling Stones were able to to rock the stage with just three songs. Their set rocked with riveting versions of “Start Me Up,” “Rough Justice,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Mick Jagger proved to be more fit than the NFL players as he danced on every crevice of the stage.
5. Prince rains rock during halftime on February 4, 2007
This eclectic show was somewhat ironic due to the massive downpour. Prince set the bar very high as he performed on a stage shaped as the exact guitar he was playing. He ripped through classics like “1999” and “Purple Rain” and just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, he performed “Proud Mary” and “All Along the Watchtower,” among others, and left us in complete awe.
6. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers change the game on February 3, 2008
This was an instant touchdown. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opened with “American Girl” and continued with hits like “Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin,” which allowed guitarist Mike Campbell to shine. The performance was so spectacular it was even nominated for an Emmy Award in 2009 for Outstanding Live Sports Special.
7. Bruce Springsteen runs the show with the E Street Band on February 9, 2009
At Super Bowl XLIII, the Boss implored viewers to “put the chicken fingers down” before rocking the crowd for the next 12 minutes. They lit up center stage with songs like “Born to Run” and “Glory Days.” But the set’s biggest throw-down came when Bruce slammed a TV camera with his crotch during “10th Avenue Freeze Out.”
8. The Who roar a rock storm on February 7, 2010
The Who took the main stage to bust out an amazing show filled with hits like “Who Are You” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We don’t need to tell you why this show was so highly anticipated, but it sure lived up to standards.
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