The Big Game

Lady Gaga Blows the Roof Off the Halftime Show

We are living in interesting times, and Gaga deftly noted it while presenting a spectacle designed to include anyone and everyone watching. Maybe that was the biggest feat of all.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen February 5, 2017

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Image: via NFL/Fox

Finally, we've discovered how to get the folks at NRG Stadium to open the roof: Lady Gaga just has to ask.

As rumored, Gaga started the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show on the roof of the stadium with a stirring rendition of "God Bless America," and splicing in a hint of the pledge, adding just enough emphasis on "liberty and justice for all," to make it clear that it's a thinly veiled protest so patriotic that not even the #MAGA crowd can complain (not that it will stop them).

I wasn't always in love with the choice of Lady Gaga to headline the halftime show — she hasn't had a Top 10 billboard hit since 2013’s “Applause,” — but somewhere around the time she started vamping around on the 50 yard line before the game I started getting excited. Who knows how to put on a spectacle better than Gaga? Who more encapsulates arena rock in pop music today? Who else could really bring viewers certifiably fabulous football drag kitsch

From the moment she jumped down all 265 feet from the top of NRG, Gaga was in full rockstar mode, belting and shaking her way through five of her biggest hits, her huge voice somehow never faltering nor overpowered by the pyrotechnics and flying.

"Poker Face" got the crowd pulsating, only to follow it by singing almost the entirety of "Born This Way," the performance's second not-a-political-statement-but-we-all-know-it's-really-a-statement statement.

(Seriously, I feel sorry for the Twitter haters who now have to position themselves against a song about everyone loving themselves for who they are and the pledge. It's gonna be a rough night in troll land.)

Like most I have no idea what was actually happening as Gaga performed "Telephone," because I was mostly on the edge of my seat waiting for a with-children Beyoncé to show up with a cameo, as has been rumored based on an Instagram post, but alas, false alarm. It's hard to complain when the follow-up is "Just Dance," a song that will never not be fun and which only gets better with background dancers in cubist/rock formation inspired(?) bomber jackets.

Her anthemic rendition of "Million Reasons" brought the volume down just enough to to give the audience one more jolt with a final costume charge and the opening chords of "Bad Romance" performed with an army of little monsters in white distressed  practice gear behind Gaga's perfect bedazzled shoulder pads outfit.

If the last Super Bowl halftime show in Houston will be remembered forever for all the wrong reasons, this one should go down for all the right things: one of the most theatrical performances in this venue in years, not to mention one of the most powerful, ambitious and yet restrained.

We are living in interesting times, and Gaga deftly noted it while presenting a spectacle that felt designed to include anyone watching (minus those offended by hearing the words "lesbian" and/or "trans," but oh well). For all the belting, big entrances, fireworks, the drones spelling out Pepsi in lights against the night sky, that might be the most impressive feat of all.

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