The halftime show at Super Bowl 50 was destined to be momentous regardless of the angle the “Powers That Be” decided to go with. The performances, as of late, have been very pop-oriented; Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Madonna, and the Black Eyed Peas playing the last 5 years. Coldplay seemed like the perfect, necessary segue from pop back into rock, and that only kind of proved to be true. Again, this is Super Bowl 50, a monumental landmark that was always going to be a little bigger than whomever performed. Coldplay seemed more like a platform for nostalgia than a headliner in their own right, but the band embraced it without sacrificing their time in the spotlight.
There were no surprises here…no Destiny’s Child-like reunion, no Missy Elliott-like comeback, and luckily no random add-ons a la Slash (Black Eyed Peas) or Red Hot Chili Peppers (Bruno Mars.) We knew ahead of time that Beyoncé and Bruno Mars would be returning to the halftime show. While that partially would have been random (the former recently collaborated with the band on their latest album,) their reprises felt like a commemoration. It all made sense at the end of the performance when a video took a trip down memory lane of past half time shows showcasing highlights from Michael Jackson, Prince, Springsteen, U2, Paul McCartney, the Stones, and James Brown. Notably absent was Madonna and Janet Jackson, the latter of which would have been a prime opportunity to make amends for the country’s disgustingly unfair treatment of a little mistake (that wasn’t even her fault.)
As far as the special guests go, they certainly took over the stage. It might have been nice to integrate Coldplay into their slots a little more, but where they would have fit into Mars’ “Uptown Funk” (with Mark Ronson!!!) and Beyoncé’s excellent surprise release, “Formation” is probably better left to our imaginations, in hindsight. Both artists took full advantage of their features, proving once again why they were once chosen as headlining halftime performers. Both artists were confident, well-polished, and incredibly entertaining, but they didn’t seem intent on letting Coldplay have their moment. In fact, with very little, they were each able to create amazing spectacles. Still, Coldplay rose to the occasion and did their best to remind us that this was their show. Regardless of what their guests did, they seemed perfectly cognizant.
The band focused on their recent material, a questionable choice when looking at their catalog, but a reasonable one considering the event. Beginning with a mere touch of their their breakthrough hit, “Yellow,” the show really kicked off with their biggest hit, “Viva La Vida” right out the gate. Featuring a young, energetic string orchestra, the group made their intent abundantly clear; they knew this was a big deal. They couldn’t play around with visuals as much because the show was taking place in the sunlight, but it wasn’t necessarily a handicap. Coldplay decided to take the “volume” route. It seemed that the field was constantly covered with human flowers or marching bands, there were always fireworks shooting off, and it ended with probably the most people ever crammed onto a halftime stage. Somehow, it worked wonders in lieu of special effects.
The second track, “Paradise” was another reasonable setlist addition. It’s one of their biggest hits, both in terms of popularity and concert height. Probably the most exciting musical moment for them was their latest single, “Adventure Of A Lifetime,” which felt incredible natural and uplifting in a live environment like this. After a break from the band to make way for their special guests, a short segue of “Clocks” into a short portion of “Fix You” provided the perfect backdrop for the nostalgia fest that included musical interpolations of “Beautiful Day,” “Purple Rain,” “Independent Women Part 1,” and “Just The Way You Are” and climaxed in another recent cut, “Up&Up,” which mashed up perfectly into the backing track and folded the special guests back in.
The theme for this show was clearly one of love and unity. For a band who started so melancholically, they really have found themselves in a particularly positive place. From the bursts of color straight, to Chris Martin’s visible “Global Citizen” on his shirt, to the crowd-participating “Believe In Love” signs, this was a necessary motif. The only thing that really was lacking was the “Classic Coldplay” material. Mega hits like “Clocks,” “Fix You” “Yellow” were mere interludes, but considering their time restrictions, it’s understandable. Had the band not had to share the stage, it’s safe to say they would have taken full advantage of their set.
So in the end, the Super Bowl 50 halftime show was massively successful. It was more than Coldplay, it was more than Beyoncé or Bruno, and it was more than a trip down memory lane. This was a celebration… a celebration of love and life at a time as important as ever. The band will walk away from this as heroes, no doubt. Will it go down as one of the best ever? It’s too soon to tell. Did Beyoncé upstage the main act? Probably. It’s safe to say this not a show that will soon be forgotten, however, and Coldplay have easily cemented their legacy as one of the biggest, most important bands of the 21st century.