Super Bowl Halftime Show: Usher gets mighty assist from Bay Area guitar hero

Jim Harrington, The Mercury News on

Published in Entertainment News

The Usher-headlined Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show featured plenty of guest stars at Allegiant Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday.

But it didn’t feature the one that millions of viewers were hoping to see during during the break in action between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Nope. Taylor Swift — who was at the game to support boyfriend Travis Kelce of the Chiefs — did not join Usher onstage.

Instead, viewers got to see guest appearances from Alicia Keys, Will.i.am, Ludacris, Lil Jon and, best of all, the Bay Area’s own H.E.R. during the approximately 13-minute halftime show.

In all, it was a pretty entertaining show as Usher once again channeled Michael Jackson as he moonwalked and grooved through a set list that touched upon (at least snippets of) a dozen or so numbers.

Backed by a huge and diverse assortment of instrumentation, from a marching band to a backing group and a funky horn section, Usher — who was initially dressed all in white — opened the set with “Caught Up” and then proceeded to roll through such offerings as “U Don’t Have to Call” and “Love in this Club.”

Keys was the first guest star to show up, appearing in all red — at a matching piano — so that she and Usher would soon have the opportunity to reprise their duet of “My Boo.” H.E.R. — who hails from Vallejo — then came out and showed off her mighty guitar hero chops.

The party really hit fever pitch when Lil Jon hit the stage to rock his signature song, “Turn Down for What,” and stuck around to have fun with Ludacris and Usher for a closing version of “Yeah!”

National anthem and more:


Drawing on her long history in performing the national anthem, legendary country music star Reba McEntire delivered a solid version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to the kickoff at the Super Bowl.

McEntire played the song straight, avoiding the type of vocal gymnastics that some singers decide to bring to the piece.

The defining characteristic of the song was radiant joy, which just seemed to pour forth from the country vocalist — responsible for such classics as “Whoever’s in New England,” “How Blue,” “Somebody Should Leave” “What Am I Gonna Do About You,” “One Promise Too Late” and, best of all, “Fancy” — during every single note in the song.

Shots of her singing were complemented by scenes of pyrotechnics being shot off from the top of Allegiant Stadium, an enormous video of the American flag filling the entire circular exterior of the much-buzzed-about Sphere venue, soldiers stationed in South Korea tuned into the broadcast and, eventually, a fly-over above the venue.

The final takeaway was McEntire’s enormous smile, which just lit up TVs across the globe as she brought the song to a close.

In all, it was really good version of the anthem, a number that plays a huge part in the Reba McEntire story. As legend has it, the singer McEntire actually got discovered while performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City back in the ’70s. That directly led to McEntire scoring her first recording contract.

Prior to McEntire’s performance, Post Malone sang “America the Beautiful” and Andra Day delivered “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (often referred to as the Black National Anthem). And both succeeded in their roles — although in strikingly different ways.

Hip-hop/pop artist Malone’s version was an understated, acoustic guitar-driven ballad performance, while Day’s was a poignant high-flying number that found the R&B star’s own amazing vocals supported by a number of talented backup singers.

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