BY ED KING ROCK SNOB In a wet, sloppy Super Bowl game that featured perhaps the greatest mismatch in quarterbacks, the unlikeliest of factors in football’s orgasmic finale came through: the Halftime Show, featuring Prince drenched in real, live purple rain and withstanding artificial lightning.
I don’t recall when the Halftime Show as Cross-Generational, Cross-Marketing Rock Extravaganza began, but it’s always been a reason to bear witness to the last desperate breaths of rock legends (McCartney, The Rolling Stones), hate foreigners trying to upstage our national holiday (U2 and Bono’s American flag-lined leather jacket), or fully understand the impulses that led a Fat Elvis to aim a shotgun at his TV set. Even the opportunity to catch a glimpse of past-its-expiration-date naked silicone boobie was a bomb. What were the odds that Prince, in the third year of his not-yet accomplished comeback campaign, would do any better?
The fake lightning that kicked off his performance did not bode well. The opening number, “Let’s Go Crazy” couldn’t suggest a more pathetic attempt at reclaiming past glories. A pushing-50 Prince having raided Liza Minelli’s closet no longer connotes “going crazy.” With the rain pouring down, I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer envying the resiliency of his mascara. The marching band ploy failed to grab me; I feared it was only a set-up for the obligatory purple-robed choir. The brief duet with Wesley Snipes in drag didn’t go far enough.
Somehow, though, through primal guitar wanking not seen on television since Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert raged on and the tenacity of an artist sticking with the horses that got him there (much like Lovie Smith had hoped to do with Rex Grossman), Prince overcame years of my cheap dismissals — the crap ’80s production that characterized his big hits, the self-obsessed primping that is as far from “going crazy” as rock requires, that come hither look that both he and Susanna Hoffs killed with their respective moves to major motion picture making. It all went out the window maybe a minute into “Purple Rain.” I experienced a wave of rockist pride and elation that made up for the fact that the game featured almost no great plays after the opening kickoff, no agony of defeat, no heroes, no villains. Just royalty. Black, sexy mofo royalty. God save the queen!