Prince adds weight to break formerly known as halftime

February 02, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

Miami — Miami-- --Is it just a coincidence that The Artist Formerly Known as Prince is going to perform at the first Super Bowl featuring the NFL team Formerly Known as the Baltimore Colts?

Don't bother writing. I know Prince dropped the "Formerly" and went back to being just Prince when his Warner Bros. recording contract expired in 2000, but I never let a fact get in the way of an interesting turn of phrase.

Prince is headlining this year's Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, which is terrific news, especially if you have a particular affinity for people who spend a lot of time dressed in purple, though it's probably small consolation for Ravens fans.

The eclectic rock star showed up at the Super Bowl media center yesterday for the official Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show news conference, but it wasn't a media conference in the classic sense. Most media conferences involve media asking questions and somebody trying to avoid answering them, but this one involved Prince giving a surprise mini-concert, complete with full band and sexy twin backup singers.

I like sexy backup singers, and would travel with a couple myself if The Sun would relax its restrictive expense policy, but this really isn't about me and my secret desire to be a slightly androgynous pop star. It's about a guy in a bright orange suit and bright orange high heels who still can bring it - even in a stark convention center conference room.

Yes, you heard that right. Prince apparently isn't married to the purple thing anymore (Where have I been?) and get this. He was wearing Chicago Bears orange and former Bears coach Mike Ditka showed up at an earlier media event in the same room wearing a purple suit. This kind of incongruity could only occur during Super Bowl week ... or in the Bizarro World.

Maybe the NFL has finally recovered from its Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson hangover, because Prince is not exactly the kind of predictable mega-act that the league has sought out the past couple of years. Or maybe this says more about the erstwhile Artist, who recently won a Golden Globe Award for a song he wrote for the G-rated animated movie Happy Feet.

The last two halftime headliners - Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones - both tested contemporary mores in the 1960s, but have matured into the kind of non-threatening rock legends who allow big corporate sponsors to nestle comfortably in their luxury suites without fear of some unexpected post-game public backlash.

Prince opened yesterday's news concert with the 1950s classic "Johnny B. Goode" and segued into his own hit "Anotherloverholenyohead" before finishing with a song off his newest album called "Get on the Boat."

Chuck Berry was before my time and the other two songs might as well have been the Croatian and Serbian national anthems for all I knew, so I guess I'm no longer in the NFL's official Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show demographic.

I'm also a little iffy about Cirque du Soleil, which will headline the pre-game show, but I can totally relate to Billy Joel. He's scheduled to sing the national anthem for the second time, joining Aaron Neville as the only vocalists in Super Bowl history to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" more than once.

Joel fielded about 20 questions with staccato answers that seemed to highlight the absurdity of a news conference devoted to a two-minute (or so) rendition of a song that has been sung before every major American sporting event for much of the past century.

Real question: "How will it feel to sing the national anthem for a second time at the Super Bowl?"

Real answer: "I don't know. I haven't done it yet."

The Piano Man said he is aware that an Internet betting site (Bodog) has posted an over-under line on the length of his rendition - 1 minute, 44 seconds - but he wouldn't reveal whether he plans to do a slow version or a fast one.

"When I sang it at Super Bowl XXIII, I think it was 1:27," Joel said, "but I don't really know. I won't say anything because I might be betting myself."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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