Super Bowl XLI was memorable for its football. It was the first time ever two African American coaches faced off against one another. The game started with a touchdown on its first play, a kick-off return TD. Peyton Manning was named MVP. And the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17.
But today, what many will recall lovingly from that Super Bowl on February 4, 2007, was the electrifying performance by the artist, Prince. As New York Times writer, Kelefa Sanneh, wrote of the 12-minute performance, “His performance last night at Super Bowl XLI will surely go down as one of the most thrilling halftime shows ever; certainly the most unpredictable, and perhaps the best.”
Watch this short documentary produced by the NFL on Prince’s performance and the concerns leading up to it. There had never been a Super Bowl in the rain. Rain is fine for the football players, but it was a worry for the producers of the half-time show. As one said, “We were told ‘It’s never rained in a super bowl in 40 years. Don’t worry about it.’ We were in a booth at the top of the stadium. The rain is pouring into the booth. It was so windy and rainy we couldn’t even see.”
Another person on the production team said this. “I was must panicked. Prince was using four separate live electric guitars. The stage was made of a very slick tile, which when it got wet, was even more slippery. He had two beautiful dancers with him – The Twinz. They were wearing, I think eight-inch heels. And I was thinking, ‘what’s going to happen now?”
But apparently, the unexpected rain storm did not faze Prince. As the production designer of the half-time show recalled in a conversation that was had with Prince before the show, “‘I want you to know it’s raining.’ And Prince said, ‘Yes, it’s raining.’ ‘And are you OK?’ And Prince is like, ‘Can you make it rain harder?’ And I was like, ‘right on!'”
Sanneh thought that “the heavy rain made the smoke and lights seem mysterious, instead of merely ridiculous.” Alan Light, who wrote a biography of Prince called “Let’s Go Crazy” said in the documentary, “It felt spontaneous. He turned the weather to his dramatic advantage. It was almost like a special effect. He could totally lean in to that, and make it seem like, ‘Sure it’s raining. I would have wanted it to rain.’ Like, ‘I ordered that.'”
John Pareles, the Senior Music Critic of the NY Times, marveled at Prince’s song choice and performance in the documentary. “Prince’s set is so wild. He does other people’s songs. He’s not promoting himself. He’s just making music. It’s profound. It’s loud. It’s funky. It’s one performer, shaking the entire world.”
Prince’s final song of the set was his anthem, Purple Rain, one of my favorite songs. As one of the producers of the half-time show said in the NFL documentary, “When he did do Purple Rain, things worked magically, and there’s nothing you can say except ‘thank you’.”