In between the Denver Broncos’ dominant defense and the Carolina Panthers’ slippery plays, the 2016 NFL Super Bowl hosted a halftime show of epic proportions featuring Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars. During the first quarter, the headlining frontman, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, told the crowd he wanted every attendee at San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium to participate in the halftime show. Football stans, mostly loaded up on carbs and brews, received these basic instructions: await the signal on the jumbotron and hold up a colored rectangle during Stunt 1 then flip it for Stunt 2.
Once the second quarter wrapped, colorfully dressed volunteers raced onto the field to construct the stage, a starburst-heavy set-up that included floral arrangements and winged dancers. Last December, halftime show director Hamish Hamilton told Billboard that the stagehands only had eight minutes to zip through the tunnels and piece the set together for a 12-minute spectacle. Witnessing the crew form the cross-like stage from an aerial POV, specifically from section 412, felt like watching a Broadway play switching sets without the curtains drawn.
Dozens of recruits swooped in from both end zones proving how much choreography is required before the actual show begins. There is little room for error when upwards of a hundred million viewers are tuning in to see the Big Game’s halftime concert. (Last year’s headliner Katy Perry racked up 118.5 million viewers for the most watched halftime show.) Coldplay launched the show with “Viva La Vida” off the group’s 2008 offering Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends as stadium-goers executed “Stunt 1” by creating a wash of blue, orange and yellow around the venue that looked like a horizon against a blue sky. They commanded the S.B. stage with “Paradise” and their latest single “Adventure of a Lifetime.” Swaggy trumpet and violin players also joined Martin’s on-stage entourage, as rows of dancers with flower-shaped umbrellas danced around Coldplay’s kaleidoscopic stage, an extension of the cover of their seventh studio effort A Head Full of Dreams.
The group’s famous plus-ones reminded viewers both online and I.R.L. of their halftime prowess as a leather-clad Bruno Mars and his Hooligans squad ushered the groove in with a high energy rendition of the Mark Ronson jam “Uptown Funk” before throwing to Beyonce. Performing her surprise single “Formation” — her first since 2014’s Beyonce LP — she strutted onto the field in a black and gold ensemble that paid homage to late icon Michael Jackson’s 1993 halftime garb. Keeping in line with the powerful visual, her backup dancers honored the Black Panther party with Afros and berets while creating tight dance formations. Bey and the ladies then faced off with Bruno & Co. before uniting with Chris Martin for a star-powered “Uptown Funk” finale. Sadly, the Coldplay and Beyonce duet “Hymn For The Weekend” was absent from the medley but the final message was delivered with “Stunt 2” as the entire stadium’s vivid display read: “Believe in love.”