As proof that I’ve been on this planet longer than a couple of decades, watching the relentless hype before and then half-way through the Super Bowl last night left me reminiscing.
I don’t respond well to it, but I understand that Super Bowl producers need to pump up the volume to 11 and keep squeezing as much as possible from those faders until the very last second of the event.
I understand Hollywood’s incessant need to glorify themselves, which is why they couldn’t help but spend an excessive ten minutes before kickoff selling us on their glory.
And I also understand the political realities of a half-time show justifying its more than $1 million per minute cost to manufacture something appealing to their important demographic.
It was the halftime extravaganza that most left me yearning for yesteryear, specifically 2007 when Prince performed a 7-song live concert on a lit stage carved from his well-known symbol of rebellion.
The story surrounding that spectacular night has inspired me to this day.
It was a pouring, driving rain in Miami that electric February night and the halftime producers were freaking out. The smooth stage was not built to be wet and Prince would be gripping four live 120 volt electric guitars throughout the performance. Would he be electrocuted or would he and his two dancers wearing 8-inch heels slip and hurt themselves on the slick tiles that would be covered by water?
Praying for the rain to stop, his producers dreaded having to call Prince and talk about the unfortunate circumstances, but unable to wait any longer, they dialed Prince’s number.
Prince picked up and the senior producer began telling him about the pouring rain. Prince acknowledged that, yes, he knew it was raining, and then asked a most peculiar question, “Can you make it rain harder?”
It was at that moment that the producers knew something for the ages was about to transpire that night in front of millions.
In stark contrast to other Super Bowl performers lip syncing their latest hits in meticulously choreographed movements on over-the-top sets, here was Prince performing a concert of his tunes and covers to the world with a mesmerizing clarity and live honesty.
And in the end, closing with Purple Rain, one got the sense that the gods had set the stage for an epic performance that night in Miami. Every time I watch and listen to that performance I experience what it means to have artistic clarity and certainty of purpose.
What our culture’s seemingly insatiable addiction to gratuitous hype, higher volume, and brighter lights portends for the future of jazz, I’ll leave for another post.