Rating Super Bowl 50: Producers Give Coldplay Halftime Show a "B+"

Event producers from across the country discuss the highlights and lowlights of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, which was headlined by Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars.

Many producers noted the difficulty of producing an outdoor spectacle in the daylight and praised the show's use of color.
Many producers noted the difficulty of producing an outdoor spectacle in the daylight and praised the show's use of color.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There were no giant metallic lions, left sharks, or surprise cameos by Missy Elliot at this year's Super Bowl halftime show. Instead, the 50th edition of the Super Bowl gave viewers a simpler halftime show that featured Coldplay's well-known hits, a dance battle between Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, and an abundance of color, before the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium in San Francisco. Event producers from around the country told BizBash what they liked and disliked about the show, including its "Believe in Love" message, sound system difficulties, an LED stage, and a tribute to past Super Bowl halftime shows.

Dan Markham
“I conducted a highly scientific survey on the show using the people on my couch and two texts from friends and came to the conclusion that Super Bowl halftime shows are hard. Delivering a word-beating spectacular in broad daylight isn’t for the faint of heart. There are none of your big visual tricks that are going to have the impact that an evening show will give you.

Having said that, there was a lot to like. It made the most of the fact that Chris Martin was clearly ecstatic about being there. The supporting co-headliners brought some choreographed snap to counter Chris’s gleeful pogoing; Beyoncé’s Michael Jackson costume homage and Bruno Mars's leather judo suit (which reminded me of my fondness for Bell Biv Devoe) both worked to hit the historical piece—and that 50-yard line face-off with the circling camera is why you hire Bey and Bruno for the job. They deliver.

Other highlights for me were Hamish Hamilton’s terrific direction. He nailed the opening shot with the crowd running on the field past Chris; the LED floor, which looked great in the overheard shots and transitioned nicely to the full screen historical footage; and the genuine exuberance in the crowds on the field and on the stage.

This was a show that wore its heart on its sleeve. The twirling flower dancers and candy-colored marching band combined with the closing ‘Believe in Love’ reveal all worked to deliver an optimistic, somewhat old-fashioned but unarguable sentiment that my couch-based survey group all ‘ahhhhed’ to.

I couldn’t help but notice a couple of Glastonbury-style flags towards the end. You can take Coldplay halfway across the world but they’ll somehow manage to bring a muddy field in Somerset with them and for that, I salute them. This was a show that relied on people and performance rather than technical spectacle and that choice paid off.”
Letter Grade: A-
Markham is strategy director of Production Glue, a live event company based in New York, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon.

Jodi Wolf
“I loved the stage and the amazing ​kaleidoscope ​video on it, as well as the colorful umbrella​s that resembled flowers. Visually, it was a beautiful show shot from above filled with color for the TV viewer, but seemed a bit choppy going back and forth and speaks to why it's so difficult for bands to film and record live performances​. The production ​was limited from a lighting perspective, because it was still light out​. This is a production challenge that one encounters when producing a Super Bowl halftime show on the West Coast versus the East Coast.​

Coldplay seemed ​totally ​out of place to me and a poor choice for the magnitude of Super Bowl 50, with a boring beginning​. Bruno Mars had great energy and tried to save the show by making it more interesting, but ​it ​felt a little bit like ​a scaled back version of when he was the headliner. I loved the look of the Beyoncé song production on the field​ with a drum line and pyro​, but ​the message was lost amid the audience noise. ​It drowned out most of the vocals and reduced the halftime concert to primarily a visual spectacle. The dance-off between the Mars and Beyoncé seemed a little forced, but was a fun production element.

The tribute video was cool, but reinforced how disappointing this halftime show actually was.​ If the N.F.L. didn't think that Coldplay was strong enough to carry the halftime show and felt that they had to bring back two of the headliners from the last three years, then they should have selected differently.​“
Letter Grade: C+
Wolf is C.E.O. of Paulette Wolf Events & Entertainment, a Chicago-based event management company.

Patrick Clayton
“It’s as if Up With People took back the Super Bowl halftime show with Chris Martin, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé as their leading act. What a wonderful, colorful show. The dancers and the on-field audience provided so much great energy. From the audience participation to the LCD stage floor, there were many simple elements that were executed well. The montage of the former shows was a nice touch to celebrate 50 years.

I particularly loved the nod to more traditional halftime shows—the dancing, the marching band, the colorful audience participation boards that started with a sunrise and ended with “Believe in Love.” There was a kaleidoscope of things to watch in every direction.

My biggest criticism is that it was very hard to hear the soloists due to what seemed like technical difficulties—all the background music was clear, but the actual words were very hard to hear from beginning to end.

I think this was a safe show—no big surprises—but done well. The three singers blended very well together and looked like they were having fun sharing the stage.”
Letter Grade: B+
Clayton is the owner of Patrick J Clayton Productions, a New York-based event production and design company.

Sean O’Keefe
“I loved the colorful flower theme from Chris Martin's jacket and jeans to the LED stage floor to the dancing paper flowers, all the way to the end of the halftime show with the entire stadium holding up that incredible message encouraging all of us to believe in love.

I would have added a few more of the vibrant dancing flowers. I thought they were a very nice touch and who doesn't want a little extra flower power? I loved the energy of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. He really seemed happy to be there and his performance showed it. While I liked the other performers they seemed to be playing to the camera but Chris was just singing his heart out for the crowd.

I was quite surprised by the three different acts all singing together at the end of the halftime show. It left me feeling happy that all three artists got to enjoy the energy in the stadium and sing together. That kind of musical partnership is usually only seen at the Grammys.

It is hard to point out a missed opportunity in such a well-scripted show, but if I were to had done it I would have added in another marching band or two. They have such an incredible presence and were not really covered that much by the network.”
Letter Grade: A
O’Keefe is the president of Sean O’Keefe Events, an Atlanta-based event planning, design, culinary, and floral company.

Patty Holland
“The halftime show in regards to being entertaining was great. Coldplay seemed to be having a grand time and appeared thrilled to be entertaining the crowd. The talented Bruno Mars can do no wrong in my book and Beyoncé is always entertaining. The flashback to past halftime performances was a nice segway to the finale of the show.

It is tough to combine dramatics with special effects and/or lighting options during an outdoor daylight performance. Evening halftime shows seem to be more dramatic. With any live event, there are always challenges to overcome. In this case, I felt the sound system seemed to be less than stellar in regards to the audio feed. The music was muffled and uneven.

However, the special effects stage floor was something to behold. The colors coordinated throughout the entire show from the stage floor effects, ground colored umbrella flowers, and ending with the crowd color cards participation made up for the lack of drama and the ability to use lighting as enhancements.”
Letter Grade: B
Holland is president and executive producer of Tiger Productions, an Orlando-based event production company.

Toni Short
“The performances were clearly fantastic, and the production value definitely went up a notch from previous years, but the overall theme of ‘Believe in Love’ was the true winner this year. The energy behind this message is a sign that the world is catching on and together we can make a difference to this world. It’s great to see such influential people leading the pack with this global movement.

There could have been more aerial shots of the stage/field layout—especially when there were a lot of things happening that you couldn’t get the scope for on the screen.

The awesome integration of the three acts through singing each other’s songs and how they came together at the end with the single message really made it feel that they were all pumped to share the stage and promote the same message.

The way they honored past artists by featuring the most moving moments of those performances was pretty special. It’s often about the current act outdoing the past but this year it felt so much stronger as they celebrated the history and the magic of this remarkable event that has become a staple in pop culture and sporting history.”
Letter Grade: A
Short is the founder and C.E.O. of Shortlist Agency, a New York-based event production company.

Anna Marie Rembold
“First, I want to give huge kudos to the producers. It takes countless man-hours, immense creativity, diligent project management, and teamwork to pull off a production of this magnitude. I loved the LED stage and graphics. They were so dense with color and it worked really well for the daylight show. The use of vibrant color throughout the entire stadium, from the bleacher signage to the dancing flowers and band uniforms, was beautiful. Beyoncé and Bruno Mars’s mash-up followed by Coldplay’s ode to Super Bowl’s halftime show past was exceptional. I love jubilees because they typically include thoughtful retrospectives.

I would have doubled the number of performers in wild, colorful costumes for the choreographed elements. Because they had to contend with such strong natural light, they couldn’t rely on the usual complex lighting designs. I think they did a great job transforming the stadium using signage, uniforms, and high color-saturation LED lighting.

It was really difficult to hear Chris Martin. There seemed to be some audio challenges, which unfortunately compromised the output.

Overall, the show felt like a true reflection of the fun-loving San Francisco spirit and highlighted the essence of this year’s Super Bowl, the most giving ever, with the ‘Believe in Love’ message at the closing.”
Letter Grade: A-
Rembold is president of Anna Marie Events, a San Francisco-based corporate and social event planning firm.

Gabrielle Mourino
“The Super Bowl halftime show is one production I always look forward to, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they get the show up and running. Overall the production value seemed to be lacking but that was compensated with a genuinely fun performance.

Coldplay started out with a slower, more intimate set but the energy was quickly picked up by Bruno Mars. How can you not smile when he is dancing his way across the stage? The highlight of the show was Queen B bursting onto the field followed by her dance/sing-off with Bruno. The homage to past halftime performances was a very nice touch, and the ending shot with the crowd spelling “Believe in Love” was a great tribute to the host city. All in all it was an entertaining show, but I was expecting a little more for the 50th anniversary.”
Letter Grade: A-
Mourino is an account executive at T.Skorman Productions, an Orlando-based event entertainment agency.

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