Responsible Americans haven’t been to a concert in nearly a year. Live music, and live events in general, feel like a fond, fuzzy memory from another lifetime. So, when the NFL billed Sunday night’s halftime show as “The Biggest Concert of the Year,” they probably could have rebranded it as, “The ONLY Concert of the Year.”
With Americans bored, and scared, and alone, and anxious—expectations were high for The Weeknd to deliver some much-needed, healing entertainment. One would expect some feel-goodery from this year’s halftime show—like Biden’s inauguration party, or what U2 did at the 2002 Super Bowl after 9/11.
That’s not what The Weeknd did. His Super Bowl halftime show—true to him—was a neon, near-future, dystopian party that felt fairly fitting for These Times. This could have been a halftime show that leaned fully into the Celebrities Singing “Imagine” kind of corniness. Instead, The Weeknd’s performance was filled with backup dancers wrapped in face bandages. His set—straight out of Blade Runner‘s casino—was adorned with glowing signs depicting words of our time like “Touch” and “Alone.” He ran lost and terrified through a room of reflective gold mirrors. The Weeknd didn’t manufacture meme-able moments; he didn’t invite a surprise guest.
This was just a Weeknd concert, as dark as we’d expect from him. He was himself. He played his many hits. It felt as authentic as one can get for a concert in the middle of a sporting event branded by a carbonated beverage.
Maybe some people wanted a more sentimental performance—a bonding moment for a fractured nation. But, there’s something to be said about this being nothing but a massive pop concert at a time where pop concerts don’t exist. For 20 minutes, The Weeknd brought us into his creative world—a Daft Punk inspired concert of after hours pop music. It’s probably exactly what people would have enjoyed in arenas in 2020 if The Weeknd could have actually gone on tour.
Remember pop concerts? I hardly do, but I thank The Weeknd for a brief reminder.
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