After last year's show-stopping Beyoncé performance—and the subsequent 34-minute blackout—the Super Bowl halftime show took a more understated turn with headliner Bruno Mars, who performed a high-energy showcase of four of his biggest hits at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Event producers from around the country told BizBash what they liked and didn't like about the show, ranging from the lighting, pyrotechnics, and finale fireworks to the somewhat-surprising Red Hot Chili Peppers pairing. Here's what they had to say.
“First of all, [Bruno Mars was a] great choice. I loved that they allowed him and his band to be the stars of the show. While they did have great fireworks and a killer set, it was not so overpowering. Part of his charm is his showmanship. He’s an entertainer, and he brought 110 percent to the stage tonight. The James Brown moves were awesome! Having the Red Hot Chili Peppers was also a nice touch. It's hard to go wrong with them. [Bruno's] final song on the lone stage was also pretty powerful, especially the way they shot it. The best part about him is that he always seems to be genuinely beaming. Smiling from ear-to-ear. All the pyro, lights, and special effects cannot beat that. Very classy performance.”
Letter Grade: B
Parente is president of New York-based event and entertainment production company Bookem Danno Productions. He produces dozens of events per year, and clients include Rolling Stone magazine, Mont Blanc, Porsche North America, ESPN, and Coors Light.
“A stunning, high-energy show! The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was a whole show. It felt like the TV audience didn't miss a thing—it was beautifully produced for both the live crowd and the broadcast. The lighting design was phenomenal, and impeccably brought the entire arena together in an incredibly executed display. The camera direction was spot on—Bruno's presence was as powerful and commanding as his talent. And how refreshing that the only skin was that of (impressively toned) Anthony Kiedis and Flea. The Red Hot Chili Peppers performance was fun, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a jam with Bruno. The children that opened the show … hmm. I'm all for involving kids where possible, but it was disjointed and their connection to the show wasn't entirely clear.”
Letter Grade: A- “Nicely done. The minus is for not fully realizing the through-line with all three acts.”
Kurland is the president of Production Glue, a New York-based agency that produces events for major networks, public initiatives, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies, among others.
“The highlight was Bruno showing off how multi-talented he is. Things are aligning for him to be a star. I fully expect him to make the leap from mainstream-cool to festival-cool in the next year or so. I didn't see why it made sense for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to join, aside from creating more chatter—which I guess it what it's all about these days. I would have liked to see the focus on Bruno Mars. Overall, great production on visuals and sounds. It felt very complete. I want one of those gold shimmery jackets! I was also really impressed with the prelude to the performance. Kudos to Pepsi and Mekanism on bringing it to life.”
Letter Grade: B
Chad Issaq is the executive vice president of business development and partnerships for Superfly Presents. He leads the sponsorship sales and activation team for the New York-based producers of Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, and other large festivals.
“Fantastic! I loved Bruno Mars's intro with the drums and the moving stage. I think his music helped him gain a lot of new fans, especially in the older demographic. The James Brown [dance moves] sealed the deal. I also loved the small performance from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They all were jamming and looked like they were having a good time.
On to production. Beam fixtures have officially taken over outdoor events, and you must have them. They had hundreds and hundreds of beam fixtures, which looked amazing. I loved the iHeartRadio-style LED bands they gave to every person in the stadium. Something new, though: It looks like they pixel-mapped every seat and were able to do custom graphics in the crowd. This really involved the whole stadium. I loved the video graphics and moving LED panels behind the stage. It was very simple and clean.
Traditionally, halftime shows have preselected crowds on the field, and they are almost like extras—and because of this, there is not that much energy in the crowd. This year the crowd on the field looked extremely energized and looked like they were having an amazing time.
Finally I love how Bruno finished with 'Just the Way You Are' in the center of the field. Though it was sort of anticlimactic after such an energetic show.”
Letter Grade: A
Curran is the president of Endless Entertainment, a Tempe, Arizona-based event company that handles entertainment, lighting, audiovisual production, staging, and special effects. The company's clients have included the X Games, Fiesta Bowl Block Party, and Phoenix Comicon.
“My review from the 10-yard line: The lights, the pyro, and the use of the audience were amazing. We have always wanted to use technology like that, but it is fan-reliant, which has a lot of room for error. They nailed it and it made for a spectacular show. A+! As for the performance—don't get me wrong. I love Bruno Mars. I think he is a fantastic artist and so very talented. Saying that, going in I said I don't think he can carry a Super Bowl show. I love his genre and his songs, just not for this arena. They aren't spectacular enough, or have that 'thrill' factor. The Chili Peppers helped tremendously, but one song was not enough. I would have liked to see more of a collaboration with them. On top of that, the acoustics were awful in the stadium. He was drowned out and you could hardly hear him. Maybe you got a better show on TV. B-.”
Letter grade (overall): B
Krouse is a partner at Toast, a New York- and Los Angeles-based production firm. She works on roughly 50 events per year, ranging from award show after-parties to charity galas, for clients such as Rolling Stone, CoverGirl, and the United States Olympic Committee.
“This was one of best halftime shows I have seen in years. It featured a great pace and energy, from the moving drum stage intro to the tight choreography and genius mash-up with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. All these elements allowed for a high-energy, spectacular show that got us up and dancing. The styled, layered lighting, fire graphics, and silhouette effects combo kept the production tight and sharp. And finally, the military tribute kept it all 'real' with a nice, patriotic, feel-good touch.”
Letter Grade: A-
Martinez is the managing partner of AgencyEA, a Chicago-based experiential and event marketing agency with clients including AOL, Sears, and United Airlines.
“No politics, no wardrobe malfunction, no twerking! Bruno was the right artist for the moment.”
Letter Grade: B+
Daniels is the president of Karpe Diem Inc., based in Miami. He handles lighting design and direction for major shows like La Voz Mexico (The Voice Mexico), the Latin Grammys, and MTV World Stage, as well as corporate events.
“Wow—bravo to Bruno Mars! Entertaining, fun, energetic. Exciting to watch! Bruno Mars's halftime performance kicked off on a high-energy note that held our attention and left us wanting more. Given that he hit the scene in 2010, this was a big moment for him and he owned one of the biggest stages in entertainment today. He was refreshing, optimistic, stylish, soulful, and most of all he was engaging and entertaining to watch. You couldn't help but dance with him. What a talent! Mixing vintage big-band sounds with fresh energy and contemporary vocals—and of course we also loved the gold Saint Laurent jackets with skinny ties. The entire performance was an 'A'. Pair that with sharp video and LED wall programming, and that show packed a punch. Much more than the game did! From a visual and production perspective, my favorite halftime moment was Bruno and band in dramatic silhouette against the bright, white video wall. Sleek and exciting. A fantastic show.”
Letter Grade: A
Kleinhaut is the owner and founder of Caravents, a New York- and Los Angeles-based event design, production, and multimedia firm. Her clients include Target, Samsung, Ambercrombie & Fitch, and Elle.
“The Good: Bruno Mars is a great performer—his voice, his charisma, his wardrobe, his originality. He's got a lot going for him. And Bruno on drums is not something we see very often, so it felt special and was a powerful way to kick off the set. Also, the tribute to the U.S. Servicemembers was a nice touch. And the lighting and pyrotechnics were good. Not great. Not the best we've ever seen. But better than average.
The Bad: the dancing. Or lack thereof. Mars had some fancy footwork, yes, but I missed the big choreographed production that I've come to expect from Super Bowl halftime shows. Also bad: the TV coverage. It just seemed small. I wanted a wider view of the action. I wanted to see the stadium turn itself into a light show spectacular. I wanted to see more. Also, the N.F.L.'s 'Concert of the Year' over-promise. It set us up to let us down.
The Ugly: the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I may be in the minority here, but I thought it was random, and not in a good way. And 'Give It Away' was an unfortunate choice, given the circumstances (#poorpeyton). Anthony Kiedis and Flea may look good for 51, but it's February in New Jersey. Put shirts on already. And it's time for that mustache to retire.”
Letter Grade: B- “It's not that it was bad. It was just boring.”
Castellano is the chief creative officer of Switch, a St. Louis-based experiential marketing and event firm. Her clients include Anheuser-Busch, Vitamin Water, UPS, and Luna Bar.