A fierce and clearly possessed Beyonce emerged from a cloud of smoke and lingering suspicion about her live-singing capabilities on Sunday, answering the doubters with an inspired display of hits and multimedia indulgence during her Super Bowl XLVII halftime show performance.
Oh, and Destiny's Child reunited.
Two weeks removed from the presidential inauguration, where she admittedly sang to a backing track, Beyonce did it live in New Orleans. Emerging on a podium wearing a skimpy black outfit, the diva launched into a brief "Love on Top" before bringing out the big horns and frenetic choreography of "Crazy in Love."
"End of Time" and "Baby Boy" followed before Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams shot out from under the stage like exploding pistons to deliver the long-rumored reunion of Destiny's Child. While they didn't sing their new song, "Nuclear," fans probably aren't complaining after the trio rocked a gleeful run of "Bootylicious" before lacing into "Independent Woman."
Beyonce kept her girls with her for the first half of the next song, the "I Am… Sasha Fierce" classic "Single Ladies," and the dozens of female dancers and band-members (including a killer horn section) turned up the energy accordingly. Visually, the halftime performance was enhanced by innovative animation screens, with duplicate Bey's running wild (reminiscent of her performance at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards).
After Rowland and Williams departed mid-"Single Ladies," Beyonce and her army closed out her set with the power ballad "Halo." Mission accomplished for the singer, who now will focus on her followup album to 2011's "4."
Not long after Beyonce's performance, the lights literally went out at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, causing a 30-minute delay in the game.
Before the game started, Alicia Keys delivered a soulful, stripped down version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Seated at a gleaming grand piano, the "Girl on Fire" slowed the anthem down to a quiet, jazz-esque crawl, but to great emotional effect. When a camera panned to various members of the teams that were about to take the field, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis looked bordering on tears.
Earlier, Jennifer Hudson performed a touching version of "America the Beautiful" with 26 members of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, from Newtown, Conn., the site of the December school shooting that left 20 kids and 6 adults dead. The singer's connection to gun violence is a tragic one. Four years ago, Hudson flawlessly sang the national anthem before Super Bowl XLIII, just months after her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew were gunned down by her estranged brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack for the big game actually came in between the hits and blitzes and blackouts, during the much-ballyhooed Super Bowl commercials. Appearing in actual ads were Usher (dancing to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" for Mercedes-Benz) and Stevie Wonder (Bud-Light scored him and his 1972 classic "Superstition").
Other musical highlights included PSY shilling for Wonderful Pistachios, the Flaming Lips new song "Sun Blows Up Today" for Hyundai and in a first for Fleetwood Mac, the classic band allowed one of their songs, Stevie Nicks' "Landslide," to be licensed for an ad. The winner in the Mac bowl? A touching ad telling the story of a farmer reuniting with one of his former horses, now aBudweiser clydesdale.
Songs by Sam & Dave, Calvin Harris, Queen, Jimmy Cliff and Meat Loaf were also used in ads for products ranging from Milk to Volkswagen. A comical highlight of the night was a spanish version of Fun.'s "We Are Young" scoring a Taco Bell commercial starring hard-partying senior citizens.
Music always plays an integral role in New Orleans life, but this week especially absorbed an onslaught of recording artists booked to play (or just appear at) various parties around town.
The action really got started on Thursday night, fittingly, with hometown hero Lil Wayne at the EA Madden Bowl. On Friday, there were concerts hosted by VH1 (Train) and Rolling Stone magazine (Pitbull, Flo Rida), as well as the Drew Brees Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert. At various parties, stars ranging from Paul McCartney to Snoop Dogg made the rounds.
Justin Timberlake's comeback concert on Saturday night, at the DirecTV party, unsurprisingly dominated the non-Beyonce headlines all week, and he delivered. In his first solo concert in five years, he rocked two hours of hits and new songs including the live premieres of "Suit and Tie" (with Jay-Z in the house) and other "20/20 Experience" tracks.