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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# Rock and Bowl
From Bono to Janet's wardrobe malfunction: the best Super Bowl half-time shows
Steven O’Rourke rewinds the tapes on some memorable performances during the NFL’s showpiece. Here’s his favourites.

As much a tradition as the game itself, Steven O’Rourke takes a look at the best Super Bowl half-time shows.

5. – Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake & others

Super Bowl XXXVIII – 2004

Perhaps not technically one of the ‘best’ Super Bowl half-time performances – it did, afterall, feature Nelly and Kid Rock – this was certainly one of the most controversial.

At half-time in a cracking game between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots – which the Pats went on to win 32-29 – Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and co spent 10 minutes singing about taking their clothes off. However, controversy erupted when Janet Jackson actually did.

Officially, the incident was blamed on a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ but looking at the footage now – which may be NSFW – it’s difficult to say it wasn’t planned. It’s also pretty harmless and didn’t deserve much of the controversy it stirred.


4. The Rolling Stones

Super Bowl XL – 2006

It was nice of the Romans to plan their numbering system in such a way that, thousands of years later, the NFL could use their number 40 to make everything bigger and brasher.

While the game – a Steelers 21-10 win over the Seahawks – didn’t live up to the billing, The Rolling Stones’ performance certainly did. This performance stands out because it was the first Super Bowl half-time show to run on a five-second delay, so broadcasters could delete lines from two of the Stones’ songs.

It also featured the best stage the Super Bowl is ever likely to see, a giant tongue modelled on the Rolling Stones logo.


3. Diana Ross

Super Bowl XXX – 1996

Given her penalty taking exploits at the 1994 World Cup, many were surprised that Diana Ross received another high-profile call up. Determined to make amends, Ross pulled out all the stops.

During the game, the Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17 to become the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years but most fans will remember this game for Ross’ stunning exit.

In the middle of a rendition of ‘Take Me Higher’ Ross hopped into a helicopter and flew off into the night sky. The lady knows how to leave a room.


2. U2

Super Bowl XXXVI – 2002

The most emotionally-charged Super Bowl half-time performance on our list, U2 took to the stage just five months after the September 11 attacks.

Opening with ‘Beautiful Day’ – which it was for the New England Patriots as they produced a shock 20-17 victory over the St Louis Rams – Bono et al pulled out all the stops with a show in which the background featured the names of all those who died on September 11.

Though there was some controversy over Bono’s Stars and Stripes lined jacket, most observers felt that U2 had the correct mix of entertainment and sentiment.


1. Prince

Super Bowl XLI – 2007

My favourite Super Bowl half-time performance came during the Peyton Manning’s only Super Bowl triumph; when he led the Colts to a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears.

The artist, at that stage known yet again as Prince, performed a number of his own hits, as well as covers of Dylan, the Foo Fighters and Queen.

To round it all off, the little man in purple finished his set with a rousing rendition of ‘Purple Rain’ in a very fitting downpour. Given his extraordinary talents, you wouldn’t put it past Prince that he had organised the deluge.


Steven O’Rourke is the offensive coordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club. When not obsessing with football he can be found at 4fortyfour.

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