Bruce Springsteen played the Super Bowl halftime show like he wanted to be named the game MVP.
No question Springsteen had something to prove, having taken a deluge of criticism during the week leading up. But were his age-defying acrobatics and hammy improv yet another game-winner for the Boss or just another hyped-up Super Bowl commercial?
The more cynical viewpoint would consider Springsteen's timing of the gig. His 12-minute Super spot is sandwiched nicely between the release date of his new album, Working on a Dream, which came out last Tuesday, and yesterday's on-sale date for his upcoming tour (Toronto's date at the ACC goes on sale Friday).
In a much-discussed interview with NYT Bruce confirms as much, saying "at my age it is tough to get word of your music out."
That's shocking to hear from an artist with such an enormous and dedicated fan base. He pulled in over $200 million last year in concert revenue. His fans are scooping up tickets whether they are aware of new material or not, and chances are they would hardly care anyway.
So let's assume the Super Bowl gambit was to boost sales for the new album, which, backed by a choir, he played a small sample from between megahits Born to Run and Glory Days. It at least cause some noted Wikipedia vandalism.
But whatever sales figure Springsteen, his manager Jon Landau and Sony Music have envisioned it will hardly validate the reported $110-million, seven-record deal he's currently working through. Even for the Boss, a million records is a hard sell these days.
Watching Springsteen, 59, sliding on his knees uncontrollably across the stage and straight into the camera was the halftime show's finest moment of true spontaneity.
But why is he trying this hard to impress? Perhaps Springsteen wanted to slide right out of the nightmare which has become the Walmart fiasco. To have fans turning on him so quickly after coming off as golden during his inauguration performances must have really shaken his confidence.
But for every adrenalin-pumped moment during Super Bruce, there were some seriously questionable choices. Like the referee calling a delay of game penalty during a cheesy script between Bruce and guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who confusingly decided to proclaim the moment "Boss time." Or Springsteen delivering that dreaded cliché sports sign off "I'm going to Disneyland."
Whether saying that line was meant to poke fun at the spectacle or whatever his intentions for doing the halftime were, it just didn't feel necessary for him to do it.