Halftime shows have become a pinnacle of the Super Bowl experience, with some of the biggest names in music taking the stage over the years. But not all of them have been hits.
From lackluster performances to controversial moments, here are some of the worst rock halftime shows in history (or at least since the 1990s). We made our choices based on memorability, overall performance, and fan reviews.
5. Tom Petty (2008)
Following Janet Jackson’s infamous show at Halftime in 2004, the NFL was keeping a tight leash on performers. They didn’t want any more surprises and Tom Petty was a safe play.
Don’t get us wrong … Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers played a great show at Super Bowl XLII. But while the setlist was filled with classics (and well thought out with “American Girl” as an opener), the show was a bit subdued, especially considering some of the top rock shows like Springsteen, U2, and Prince.
4. Gloria Estefan & Stevie Wonder (1999)
Stevie Wonder definitely had some surprises for us during the Super Bowl XXXIII Halftime Show. From driving across the field in a convertible to tap dancing along with world-class performers, audiences were kept on their toes.
While the show brought a bit more energy than Petty, it still doesn’t reach the excitement of our favourite Halftime artists. And with a limited list of rock performers to choose from, Wonder unavoidably ended up near the bottom.
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)
In fairness to the RHCP, this may have played out differently if they were headlining the show … or maybe not.
Either way as a special guest for Bruno Mars, their performance fell flat. Not to mention fans and fellow musicians were not impressed that they played with unplugged guitars after agreeing to perform to pre-recorded tracks.
In a statement, Flea explained why they made that choice.
“When we were asked by the NFL and Bruno to play our song and give it away at the Super Bowl, it was made clear to us that the vocals would be live but the bass drums and guitar would be pre-recorded.
I understand the NFL’s stance on this, given they only have a few minutes to set up the stage … The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ stance on any sort of miming is that we will absolutely not do it … We had given this a lot of thought before agreeing to do it and besides many, a long conversation amongst ourselves. I spoke with many musician friends for whom I have the utmost respect and they all said they would do it if asked.
We recorded a track for the day, just bang, went out from our hearts …For the actual performance, Josh, Chad and I were playing along with the pre-recorded track. So, there was no need to plug in our guitars so we did not. Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre-recorded? Of course, easily we could have done this and it would have been a non-issue. We thought it was better not to pretend and it seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance.”
2. The Who (2010)
The Who are rock icons but their performance at Super Bowl XLIV was far from spectacular.
While they are great musicians, the show was met with a lukewarm response. The Who just didn’t bring the showmanship (or the vocals) that some of the other performers had. The crowd wasn’t into it and the songs didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm that others have brought.
It’s a shame that their iconic setlist, with “Pinball Wizard”,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Who Are You” and other classics, wasn’t as celebrated as it could have been.
1. The Blues Brothers (1997)
With special guests like James Brown and ZZ Top, this show should have been a rock winner. But too much of The Blues Brother (with Jim Belushi instead of John) weighed the show down.
The show opened with a fictional news bulletin about Elwood J Blues (Dan Aykroyd’s character in the movies) escaping jail before the band launched into “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.”
The performance was a mess and lacked the energy that the other acts brought after them. And, despite Jim Belushi’s best efforts, The Blues Brothers’ performance at Halftime 1997 became the reunion that nobody wanted.
The Super Bowl Halftime Show is one of the biggest stages for music, where some of the biggest acts come together to create a memorable show. But these five rock performances just didn’t make the cut, proving that not every show can be a hit.