Tom Petty’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLII in 2008 was exactly what you’d expect from a Petty show.
It was fun. You knew every song, and every word. It wasn’t a grandiose show like some halftime shows. It felt like Petty and the Heartbreakers just decided to show up and play a few songs for, oh, a hundred million people watching. It was upbeat. Petty made everyone happy. His shows always did.
Much like Prince, another legend who died last year, Petty’s tie to the NFL was a classic Super Bowl halftime show.
“American Girl.” “I Won’t Back Down.” “Free Fallin.'” “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” It’s hard to beat that lineup of songs. The only thing unusual about the halftime show was that Petty played for about 12 minutes, and not the three-plus hours he was capable of even in his final days. He had enough hits to fill a dozen halftime shows. It must have been hard to whittle down the setlist to those four.
Petty’s Super Bowl halftime show was great, yet simple. Aside from some pyrotechnics at the beginning and a garish guitar-shaped stage, it was just Petty and his band playing four great songs. It fit him perfectly. He didn’t show up on a mechanical lion or rappel down from the rafters. He treated the Super Bowl halftime like any other show, which is to say he made sure to play the songs people loved and would bring them joy.
Goodnight baby, sleep tight my love
May God watch over you from above
Tomorrow I’m workin’ what would I do
I’d be lost and lonely if not for you
So close your eyes
We’re alright for now
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