Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne performs onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Lil Wayne perform at the iHeartRadio Festival on Sept. 21, 2012 in Las Vegas (Credit: WireImage)

Much of pregame festivities at the Super Bowl are centered around music, and considering the sponsorships and dollars thrown to host these affairs, the stakes are high.

The name of the game is to get the most media impressions and ultimately, have folks talking about your event well after the actual football game, which in this case, is still days away.

At Thursday night's EA Madden Bowl, an event that used to be about bringing in the best NFL players to go head-to-head with one another playing animated versions of themselves and their contemporaries has turned into the unofficial kick-off party of the Super Bowl week.

Lil Wayne's 'I Am Not A Human Being II' Due March

Sure, there's plenty of gamer action here -- this night, Arian Foster and Victor Cruz played against future NFL hopefuls and would be first round draft picks like Denard Robinson.

All that said? The Madden Bowl could still be in great running for the top concert (and party crown) of the week. And it almost has nothing to do with football (though we did spot greats Eddie George and Jerry Rice). The real reason that capacity was at a max was the promise of a Lil' Wayne concert.

The surprise opener was Big Boi of OutKast, who performed as if the other half of his dynamic duo was on stage with him. In the absence of Andre 3000 was Big Boi's rapping hypeman Black Owned, and no shade to Dre, but the show was just as jamming as if he were actually there himself.

Big Boi rolled through a number of classic and big OutKast hits ("So Fresh, So Clean," "Rosa Parks" and "ATLiens"), and performed a few new cuts -- "Apple of my Eye" and "CPU" -- and announced to the crowd that at midnight, he was turning 38 and couldn't think of a better place to celebrate his birthday.

But the real musical nugget of the night, naturally, was Lil Wayne himself.

When he first made his entrance on stage -- Wayne was backed by a band and a DJ -- he pointed out a fresh new band-aid on his cheek; the consequence of a skateboarding accident he shared with the crowd.

The New Orleans homeboy will actually perform two concerts in celebration of the big game before the week is up. His next show is Saturday night's GQ party, but his Thursday night event was epic and quite frankly the perfect kick-off to a week of anticipated musical moments.

The 5'5" rapper looked every bit the rock star -- and at one point moved around on his skateboard on stage. He made his way through much of "The Carter IV," – he opened with his Rick Ross single, "John," and later performed "She Will," which has his protégé Drake singing the hook, before spinning into some of his recent radio hits and collaborations with French Montana, Drake and 2 Chainz.

He continued to rock out for nearly an hour on the stage, while the crowd of the thousands who were lucky enough to score one of those private, coveted tickets leapt to their feet and cheered on the hometown hero.

Wayne asked his fans -- and judging by the way nearly everyone in the crowd met him note-for-note and word-for-word on his tracks, most were there for that show -- to continue to support him when he releases his next LP, "I Am Not a Human Being II," Wayne's tenth studio album, dropping March 26.

Wayne also repeated several times that he believed in God, strangely fitting, considering that much of this show felt like a Lil Wayne revival.

And gauging from the call and response from his parishioners, they were musically sated.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print