REVIEW: Madonna’s first Super Bowl show falls flat

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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