Tom Petty "Subdued" During Halftime Show

By Courtney Thompson February 4, 2008, 3:17 PM EST

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed a 12-minute set atop a glowing red heart-shaped stage.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

FROM SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. As The New York Observer predicted in December, Tom Petty soft-rocked the Super Bowl halftime show yesterday, playing a medley of his classic hits with nary a wardrobe malfunction in sight. While many of the 100 million viewers probably agree that the high-definition clarity was unkind to Petty, it was hard not to notice how slowly the aging band moved during their 12-minute set. As The Arizona Republic noted last month, the NFL’s decision to run with Petty was a safe bet in a post-Nipplegate world.

The band performed on a glowing red stage shaped into a heart pierced by a Flying V guitar. More than 1,000 volunteers (ranging from teenagers to middle-agers) rushed the field and, The Arizona Republic said that “the music was partially pre-recorded, but Petty’s vocals and some guitar work were live,” adding that another group of volunteers had only six minutes to set up the 20-piece stage.

Fox vice president of special events K. Tomiko Iwata was at the game, and told us today that while Petty “certainly wasn’t Prince,” the stage was configured in a way that allowed more of the stadium to view the concert head-on, a bonus compared to years past. The AP story described Petty as “surprisingly subdued,” adding, “The most spontaneous moment during the halftime performance didn't even make it on TV—and it probably happens every year. After Petty closed the halftime show with ‘Runnin' Down a Dream,’ the mob assembled around the stage confusingly ran off in all directions as stagehands frantically disassembled the stage at the same time.”

Fox also added red-carpet coverage this year, picking its American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to interview celebrities. USA Today columnist Michael Hiestand quoted Terry Bradshaw as saying, “Seacrest, the only time I thought I'd see you at the Super Bowl would be as a cheerleader.” Fox NFL pregame comedian Frank Caliendo added, “Boy, nothing says NFL-tough like Ryan Seacrest. I guess Richard Simmons was booked.” Charming.

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