The 5 Best Rock Super Bowl Halftime Shows

Here's to more great performances!

Halftime Shows have been part of the Super Bowl since the first game in 1967. Back then, the shows included performances by University and High School Marching Bands. As the years went by, the shows became more and more elaborate. By 1976 the show had concert-quality sound and in 1993 the halftime show had more viewers than the actual game.

Over the years, artists of all kinds have played the biggest stage in North America. According to ratings, these are the top 5 Super Bowl Halftime Shows of all time:

What Are The Top Super Bowl Halftime Shows Of All Time?

1. Rihanna with 121 million viewers
2. Katy Perry with 118.5 million viewers
3. Lady Gaga with 117.5 million viewers
4. Coldplay with 115.5 million viewers
5. Bruno Mars with 115.3 million viewers

But we have our own list made up of legendary rock artists who have played the Halftime Show. Here are 5 of our favourites …

5. Rolling Stones (2006)

The Rolling Stones took the stage in 2006 as part of the Super Bowl XL Halftime Show. Atop a stage shaped like their lips and tongue logo, the Stones opened with their classic hit “Start Me Up.” They followed up with their then-latest single “Rough Justice” and closed with “Satisfaction.”

During the show, lyrics in “Start Me Up” and “Rough Justice” were censored.” Mick Jagger’s mic was turned down at the end of the “I make a dead man cum” and when he says “cock.” The strict censorship is believed to be in response to the wardrobe malfunction 2 years earlier. While the Stones found it “absolutely ridiculous,” ABC Sports decided to go forward with the alterations.

Even with the censorship, the Stones still managed to deliver a high-energy and memorable performance.

4. Paul McCartney (2005)

Paul McCartney performed at the Super Bowl XXXIX Halftime Show in 2005. In a short behind-the-scenes video, he recalls the process for selecting his setlist. “When you decide to do the Super Bowl, you really gotta think ‘who’s watching this?’ It’s for a family audience, not just my fans, and it’s for an audience around the world. Everyone watches the Super Bowl, you know. So we just chose songs we thought would work and did it.”


McCartney opened with the hits “Drive My Car” and “Get Back” on bass. He then moved to the piano to play “Live and Let Die” with the help of a spectacular pyrotechnics show.

The song was originally the show finale, in an NFL video, Don Mischer, the Director of the Super Bowl Halftime Shows shares, “There was one thing that I really felt strongly about. I thought ‘Live and Let Die’ was not a good closing song and I wanted to close on a more emotional level.”

Instead, McCartney closed with “Hey Jude,” which was an incredible finish to an electric show with the entire audience singing along.

3. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (2009)

Mischer shared, “Almost every year that we did the Super Bowl, we tried to get Bruce and there was just never any interest. The most surprising call I’ve ever had in my career is the Monday after the Tom Petty show. Bruce’s people called me and said, ‘we think it’s maybe time to talk about this.’ And I took the rest of the day off. I felt so good.”


Bruce Springsteen finally stepped onto the Super Bowl XLIII Halftime Show stage in 2009 with the E Street Band. Their performances included hits such as “Born to Run”, “Working on a Dream” and “Glory Days.”

The show featured amazing lights, a choir, and, of course, a well-choreographed knee slide and, of course, incredible sound. This made for one of our favourite (and one of the most memorable) rock Super Bowl Halftime Shows of all time.

2. U2 (2002)

Following the events of 9/11, the NFL decided to keep the Halftime Show but substitute it for something more meaningful: a tribute to the victims and survivors of the tragedy. In come U2, one of the first alternative rock bands to grace the Super Bowl Halftime Show stage.


U2’s show began with the upbeat and energizing performance of “Beautiful Day.” U2 then played “MLK” and “Where The Streets Have No Name”, against a backdrop of the names of all of those who passed away during 9/11.

“We play ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ whenever we need God to walk through the room. It means stepping outside yourself, imagining the possibilities. It’s just asking people: ‘Do you want to go on this journey together to that place of soul, place of imagination, the place where the streets have no name — that other place?’” — Bono

The performance was powerful in both sound and sentiment, making it our second favourite rock Halftime Show.

1. Prince (2007)

In 2007, Prince was invited to play the Halftime Show for XLI. The morning of, the weather in Miami was not what most people would call ideal.


Bruce Rodgers, Production Designer of the Halftime Show recalls, “The morning of the game, I opened the curtain in my hotel room, and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ It was like a scene from Moby Dick.’“ He continues, “We’re in this truck sitting behind Don Mischer and I remember Don said, ‘Put me on the phone with Prince.’ Don says, ‘Now, I want you to know it’s raining,’ and Prince was like, ‘Yes it’s raining.’ [Don continued], ‘And are you okay?’ And Prince was like, ‘Can you make it rain harder?’

Prince went on to perform an absolutely amazing show in the pouring rain. It included a number of songs like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Proud Mary” and “Best of You”, dancers, guest singers and a marching band. To close the show, Prince sang “Purple Rain,” which perfectly suited this wet.

The Super Bowl Halftime Show has come a long way since its inception. The bar has been set high in the past, but with the Rock n Roll artists that have taken the stage over the years, we can only hope for more exciting and unforgettable performances.

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