Review: It’s Coldplay, Starring Beyoncé, at Super Bowl Halftime Show By JON CARAMANICAFEB. 7, 2016
Review: It’s Coldplay, Starring Beyoncé, at Super Bowl Halftime Show By JON CARAMANICAFEB. 7, 2016
4 (80%) 1 vote

Everything that could be said about the choice of Coldplay to headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 50 was said by the band members themselves Sunday evening — not with their mouths, but with their outfits.

All around the stage at the center of the Levi’s Stadium field, there were bold colors: In the crowd, fans held up blue, orange, red and yellow cards that formed a sunburst. Violinists and cellists from Youth Orchestra L.A. were dressed in matching baby-blue-and-red Windbreakers, clutching instruments painted green and blue and purple and white. Dancers held up floral umbrellas. Even the stage was a kaleidoscope of pastel nature fantasies.

The members of Coldplay? They wore gray, slate blue, musky brown, dusty black. Visually, it made them the void at the center of a riot of exuberance. Such was the case musically as well: Coldplay was the center of the show but functioned more as a stagehand than an actual performer, making sure things were properly aligned so that the night’s true event could go off without a hitch.

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Mr. Martin went airborne during the halftime show. CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

That, of course, was Beyoncé, who returned to the halftime show three years after headlining it to provide a much-needed assist to Coldplay, Chris Martin’s band. On Saturday, she released a new song and video, “Formation,” which took up much of her part of Sunday’s performance.

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Beyoncé performed her new song, “Formation.” CreditA J Mast for The New York Times

That’s notable for a few reasons: Only Beyoncé could use the Super Bowl, perhaps the largest stage in the country, to showcase new material. She also announced a new world tour right on the heels of the performance. In so doing, she was arguing, in essence, that the halftime show was there to serve her, not the other way around.

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Mr. Mars danced to “Uptown Funk.” CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

And maybe only Beyoncé is capable of walking the cultural tightrope of delivering a song with such potent declarations of black pride on a stage that prefers studied neutrality or, at the loudest, pure jingoism. She wore an outfit — black leather draped in gold — that recalled Michael Jackson militaria. She did a few Vine-friendly dances — the milly rock, a sort of halfhearted whip. She sang, “I like my baby hair with baby hair and Afro/I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils.”

She emerged after Bruno Mars — yes, he was there, too — ran through a juiced-up dance routine on “Uptown Funk,” replete with MC Hammer-esque moves and backup scratching by Mark Ronson. Together, Beyoncé and Mr. Mars brought screaming jolts of soul and funk and jubilation onto a stage that until that point had lacked all of those things.

It certainly can’t be a coincidence that in a year in which football has been taken to task — in the media, in film, by the scientific community — for its unrelenting violence and the wages it exacts, the N.F.L. chose a legendarily soft band for its halftime entertainment. (How can it be anything other than an indictment of Coldplay that two of the last three years’ headliners were brought in as reinforcements?) Add to that the strategy of delivering a performance that concluded with the crowd holding up cards that read “Believe in Love” (everywhere but on the field, apparently).

What Coldplay does, though, is fill huge spaces with blank, occasionally amiable rumble. In its opening run, it performed a mushy arrangement that spanned “Yellow,” “Viva la Vida,” “Paradise” and “Adventure of a Lifetime.” When the band retook the stage from Beyoncé and Mr. Mars, it was as if someone had dimmed the lights on the field. It performed “Fix You,” in what became a de facto tribute segment to former Super Bowl performers (Jackson, Whitney Houston, James Brown) who have died. Mr. Martin also sprinkled in bits of lyrics by U2 and Prince.

Eventually he shifted into “Up & Up,” a dopey song about reconciliation and uplift, and was joined by Beyoncé and Mr. Mars. They seemed to be stabilizing him. It wasn’t the first time. Earlier, during a transition, all three of them were singing a bit of “Uptown Funk” together. Beyoncé laid her left hand on Mr. Martin’s right shoulder as she and Mr. Mars outsang him — an act of love, of pity, of grace.