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REVIEW: Madonna's first Super Bowl show falls flat

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After a month’s anticipation, Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show largely fell flat.

This was Madonna’s first performance at the Super Bowl, and the “it-girl” of 1980s pop confirmed she is no longer at the height of her popularity or provocative powers with a tame, somewhat leaden performance.

The more-ambitious-than-usual halftime show started with an awkward celebration of slavery, evolved into a fast-moving medley and then ended with a tacked-on message about world peace.

While a curiously never-out-of-breath Madonna was front and center through most of it (and performing a number of look-what-I-can-still-do acrobatics), the real stars of the show were the set and lighting designers and the dancers.

The dancers got some of the biggest cheers of the night from an in-house crowd that was largely subdued as Madonna, 53, bopped through one new song and three of her hits. Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the bass-heavy music was overwhelming, and spectators in the middle and upper sections had difficulty hearing the lyrics or even finding The Material Girl on stage.

This year’s light show won more praise from the stadium crowd than did almost any aspect of the show, as spectators joined in with small portable lights that were put under their seats to use during the halftime show. The crowd also cheered as the words “World Peace” lit up across the bottom of the stage toward the end of the show.

Madonna seemed to lack energy and the crowd responded in kind to her performance. The crowd was more effusive when Cee Lo Green joined her on stage. If Green appeared to be along for the ride, with little to add to “Like a Prayer,” TV viewers were given a hint about his inclusion via an ad for his NBC show “The Voice” appearing immediately after the performance.

M.I.A., a guest singer during the Madonna performance, shot a middle finger, marring the show. The screen blurred after the images made their way into more than 100 million homes. Much of the live audience saw the gesture.

The stage itself was much smaller than for past Super Bowls, but the crew putting it up and taking it down during the 31-minute halftime was lightning fast. In production design, if not music, the bar has been raised very high for future shows.

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  • Reviewers waaaaay off
    Some hate her, others love her. I, for one, am neutral. Not really a fan, but I do like a few of her songs and I think she is a wonderful entertainer. I think the show was the best show in recent memory and that Madonna did a hell of a job! My wife and I both enjoyed the show and thought she looked amazing for her age.
  • Tardy Boy
    I came to this late per usual. First of all,
    she has had so much work she does not even look like herself any more. I still can't understand all that. Second, she was never talented 30 years ago, so no surprise now. I have never forgiven her for RUINING EVITA. So, this little mess of SFX was a visual oddity and fine. But I would have preferred Annie Lenox, or ABBA, or Cindy Lauper. Good for her that she won a Golden Globe for her movie tune, I would have preferred Meatloaf or even Tom Arnold for that matter. It was not bad, but defiantly not worth what it cost.
  • Madge Nails It
    Ben....your comments are dead on and something tells me you work in the music business. :)
  • Great job - family friendly
    I was very happy with the half time show by Madonna. I was nervous having my young kids watch the show, but it turned out to be artistic and tasteful. The light show was amazing and the dancers were great. Madonna demonstrated how to be an artist with class. Well done!
  • Show was good
    The show was good, but the lights were better. Thanks for clearing up the ending for me. I was confused tand thought Ron Artest was being recognized (the bum)!
  • Immaterial Girl
    I have to agree with Lou (who does a great job for the IBJ). I think Madonna has become the Immaterial Girl.
  • Best thing
    Marshall is right - Madonna is still relevant
    only because way too many "artists" are still doing, copying, aping, her schtickle from 25
    years ago. Best thing - Not the black eye pees.
  • Ms M
    I couldn't have agreed more!!! Madonna showed her age!!! when she tried to lift her leg everyone in my house yelled at the same time ...did you see that!!!! she almost fell! She needs to go sit down, and do something else. Everyone else ( the lighting the dancers, the band ) did an excellent job. No super bowl compares to the halftime performance of "Prince" that was single handley the greastest superbowl performance of all-time!!!!!!!!!
  • I loved the performance
    I thought the IBJ write-up was very fair: her dancing was banal and the show would have been just as good without her. The choir, the back-up dancers, the slackline walker and the light/video show all were brilliant and I could hardly believe the show was taking place on a temp. stage in downtown Indy. I was very proud of my city and the locals who performed last night!
  • Well...
    ..not too upset, this is pretty much exactly what I would have expected from these two and they are entitled to their opinions (as lame and out of touch with current pop culture as they may be - and, yes, Madonna IS still current).

    Thoroughly enjoyed the half time show, one of the best in ages.
  • Jazz COOKER
    My apologies! The restaurant was THE JAZZ COOKER. The JAZZ KITCHEN is still very much open and located on College ave.
  • huh?
    I sometimes read this guys reviews on theater and food, which rarely offer any knowledgeable insight to culinary or artistic production/methods This week he's a music/pop culture critic.

    The gentleman mainly seems to enjoy the sound of his own voice when he writes. As do most "critics."

    I'm also noticing men in their forties and fifties seem to be the most critical on Madonna's performance (which was excellent for a woman of any age)and I can't pinpoint why but I have my ideas.

    His reviews became irrelevent,to me, when a few years back he was discussing Broad Ripple venues and wrote about The Jazz Kitchen being a neighborhood hot spot.

    The Jazz Kitchen had been closed about 3 years.
    • Thoughts of a former Indy reviewer
      The trouble in Indy with having any meaningful discussion of artistic or less-so performances is that there is little, if any, baseline. In fact, the IBJ is one of the few outlets that tries, but for me, Lou Harry is so patronizing that I've blocked him out ages ago. To look elsewhere, public radio should (but doesn't) review. Ditto the tv stations. And hit or miss at the Star, Nuvo and some blogs, there is just no sustained point of view, anywhere. As such, it really doesn't matter what Harry says. Too bad he didn't enjoy the show; I sure did. For kitsch, which is what it was, it was fantastic!
    • Dead wrong on this
      The Madonna show was awesome. It had everyone dancing at my SB party. Young and old.
      Not sure what you were watching Lou. Maybe you had a bad view. Facebook consensous was positive.
    • Worth the price of admission
      I really enjoyed the halftime show. It was fun, positive and the stage was amazing. Maybe I fit the demographic (age) but I was thrilled see Madonna over some reality TV show winner.
    • Over done, not over the top
      This was so over produced. What a mass of silliness. Over the hill rockers rule the Super Bowl every year? Galley Slaves, Glam Girls, World Peace--please spare me from this kind of drivel next year.
    • No Flat involved
      This was the best half-time show I can recall, and I wasn't fond of having Madonna in the first place. Now, I am happy to say it was a great show and she did a wonderful job of performing.
    • Madonna
      Madonna did a great job with her halftime show. So much better than a lot of them have been. My 90-year-old Mom surprised me by saying she enjoyed it.
    • Half Time Always Limited
      These shows are always limited by the magnitude of the venue and the demographic of who they appeal to. They have not had an under-30 performer, except as an accessory. Almost all show have disappointed to some extent. At least the production values on this one were super. Anyone who is going to dance much is going to lip sync.
    • Opinions
      Great show, great special effects, great stage, great back-up dancers, singers, drummers and acrobats. Madonna tried her best but appeared tentative as she somewhat clumsily danced around. Lip synced 3 out of 4 songs - big points off. Obviously spent a lot of $$ on the stage show to cover up the fact she's past her prime and relevance.

      Why all the lambasting of the reporter? Just like all of you who loved Madonna's show, Lou's entitled to his opinion, too. I thought he was spot on...but that's just one man's take.
    • spot on
      Could not have said it better myself. Sad to see the IBJ's standards sink this low.
    • Disagree
      I disagree. I am not a fan of Madonna - but I think she did a fabulous job. And I'm so thankful it wasn't that spoiled little child Mellencamp.
      They set it up in minutes - rocked it out of the house - and moved it out in minutes. Amazing dancing - amazing show. And for those against the lip syncing - they have to lip sync this one - as they do at all the superbowls and other type shows. WELL DONE MADONNA!
      • You're delusional
        So much hate out there since last night. Madonna was awesome given the confines of 15 mins on a temporary, but still incredible, stage. I heard the audience on TV very into it. Save your cynicism for a mediocre artist who truly deserves it. Madonna, from the Tv audience standpoint, still has more stage presence and talent than most.

        It would also have been nice if you'd bothered to name the local arts groups participating in the musical numbers Sunday - the Indianapolis Children's Choir (w/ Kelly Clarkson on the National Anthem), drummers from Indiana University, Avon HS, Center Grove HS and Fishers HS, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, and the Butler University Chorale. There. Was that so hard to research? No.
      • Immaterial Girl
        Can someone please remind me again why Mellencamp didn't get the halftime gig?

        Madonna. Irrelevant and immaterial.
      • Madonna....
        Who's Madonna
      • Pt of View
        One man's slave serves another man's Queen. But I challenge anyone commenting on Madonna's age, missteps, or inability to control hundreds of other performers and crew to dance on lighted bleachers in the dark in stilettos. Would you rather have seen any number of male stars (Jagger, Bowie, McCartney) displaying dyed chest hairs?
      • Thanks for your thoughts
        For the record, the piece combined the opinions of Anthony Schoettle (in the stadium) and Lou Harry (watching on TV).

        Jennifer, Mike, Sandy, Marcia and others: Glad you enjoyed.

        CMS and others: I’m hoping that everyone noting Madonna’s age also did the same for Springsteen, The Who, etc.

        Customer: Bah-bye.

        Steven: IBJ has been reviewing the arts for over five years steadily and periodically before that. Also, I’m not sure what hospitality has to do with honest reviewing.

        Margarete: Yes, we were at the same show. And we had different opinions of what was presented. Isn’t life grand that way?

        Ryanmarsh: I’m actually surprised—and pleased—that readers are sharing a variety of opinions.

        Bob: Yeah, armies love carrying in their queens on heavy chariots.
      • Madge Rocked It!
        I am going to have to agree to disagree, Lou! I thought she put on a great show. Definitely worthy of the Super Bowl.
      • Madonna on Tube
        I wonder if the energy came through more on the tube than live, because at home it seemed pretty good. She did seem nervous, though, and unsteady on her feet. I think she should ditch the stilettos and opt for sneakers.
      • perfect description
        flat and leaden perfectly describe what I felt about Madonna's performance
      • Funny
        What I find most amusing are the people that are so offended by this review. Especially the ones threatening to cancel their subscriptions, over a Superbowl halftime show no less. God forbid someone disagree with your taste in music and performance value.

        And just because it's a Business Journal doesn't mean they can't have an opinion on a musical performance. After all, last time I checked it was called the Music Business for a reason. And last night was a shining example of that business doing its best to stay relevant.
      • Ummmmmmmmm!
        The dancers could have been very interesting, if not for having to put up with Madonna. She seemed out of place and un-needed in their show. She was in the way of their performance. I watched a few minutes and turned to another station.
      • Lou is right again
        Lou - you are totally right on this one. I was very impressed with the supporting dancers and with Cee - but Madonna seemed lethargic and unimpressive
      • Good Show
        Sorry all, I thought it was great, and when she switched to the handheld mic I thought their must have been a sound delay on her other mic. Come on, surely you did not pay thousands of dollars to see a fifteen minute halftime show?
      • ewwww!
        To all the commentors crying foul of the review-the writer was spot on about the performance. Madonna surrounded her self with energetic performers, but gave a lackluster one herself. And people, the Indianapolis Super Bowl Committee had nothing to do with PICKING the halftime entertainment, that is done by the NFL. Everything this committee planned worked out great and reflected well on the city and the state, but the halftime show was safe, tidy and boring entertainment. Period.
      • YIKES
        Nothing like watching an over the hill striper TRY to rock a Vegas style show!! It was a YAWN. The light show was great, but otherwise she moved like a sloth.
        • WHAT ???
          Well IBJ, As a customer for years, I'm afraid here's where we part ways.
          HOW DARE YOU!!! I guess you never read the over 5,000.00 comments on FB alone during the LIVE show... Tweets were off the Charts ...
          You've gone too far with me and I will ask my Buisness Friends while were Golfing to consider you as a good source of reporting BUISNESS if you cannot report a proven event ...
          I believe it was a great show, Other than the invited stage group.. YOUR MOVE NOW !!!
        • Are we hard up?
          Why in the world would anyone want to watch a washed up entertainer who can't even sing live...Worst ever!
        • Madonna Falls Video
          Watch Video on : http://goalshighlights.com/2012/02/madonna-falls-during-superbowl-halftime-show/
        • THANK YOU, MADONNA
          The half-time show was family-friendly wonderful, the light show amazing, and "Like A Prayer beautiful! It gave me goosebumps! Great job!
        • Captain Rob
          Wow, you got that wound up over a singer who lip synced her way through the entire performance. Did you catch the sentence in the article where she was never out of breath?
          • Best halftime show ever
            Madonna put on the best Super Bowl halftime show I've ever seen! I would have rather watched her keep performing instead of having to go back to the game.... Congrats Madonna on a job well done!!!
          • Wrong
            Madonna's performance was the best I have seen ever at a Super Bowl...
          • Jerks
            This article is the first negative, mean-spirited thing I've read from anyone about the entire Superbowl weekend. Since when did IBJ become a concert review expert? And how desperate are you create non-existent controversy by claiming the show opened with a celebration of slavery? I could care less about the show, but I do think you could show a bit more class, hospitality and accuracy in your writing. But then again, maybe you're just a jack@ss.
            • were u at the same show?
              I totally disagree. It wasn't about slavery so much as the queen/goddess. For heaven's sake, it was the best superbowl halftime show I've ever seen.
            • Write what you know
              And you obviously don't know anything in regards to this performance unless all you wanted was comments in which you succeeded
            • Madonna!!
              fabulous....outstanding!
            • did u watch?
              I guess IBJ has to show their bias every way they can. Obviously you took a bathroom break during the halftime show or maybe you liked the Rolling Stones? Or maybe "Business" writers are not qualified to critique entertainment?
              • Really ?
                Are you ****** dumb? awkward celebration of slavery?

                More like a queen was being carried in by her army, an army that loves her and fight for her for the queen, Maybe you just are so out of touch looking for a line you didnt quite understand it ? You related to chris chase @ yahoo by chance?
              • MADONNA
                Pretty negative write up for an awesome halftime show. Madonna is 53 years old and rocked the house. Her World Peace message was right on and something millions of people need to see. She is still the same material girl we always knew and not afraid to show what she believes in. Cudos on supporting the World Peace effort ultimately that message was more important than the music and sorry guys the game as well. Love the World...Be the change!!!!
              • mamajack
                It didn't fall flat...obviously the reviewer does not attend many concerts in large venues such as Lucas Oil Stadium. The bass is normally the only thing that you can really hear. Totally disagree with your review...
              • Think you're wrong
                Actually watching on tv, the show was very enjoyable and the sets and dancers were great. It seems that no one is ever happy with the half time show. Madonna, if you're readind this, we thought you rocked and are still the ultimate professional...great job!!!
              • great show
                Watching it on TV, it was a great show.

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