The Weeknd headlined a spectacular Super Bowl LV Pepsi Halftime show for 2021 with a touchdown performance.
The Grammy Award-winning artist born Abel Makkonen Tesfayeis delivered a cinematic and transformative performance Sunday (Feb. 7) with his unique musical number during the Super Bowl halftime show.
Despite the complications of producing a show of this scale due to the ongoing pandemic, The Weeknd managed to still stage an opulent and memorable show.
The Canadian R&B artist has done something that has never been done before in the long-running sports spectacle, including a stage setup in the stands right next to the Raymond James Stadium pirate ship.
When previously teasing his performance, The Weeknd said part of the reason they made the change was for safety amid the ongoing pandemic.
"Due to COVID and for the safety of the players and the workers we kind of built the stage within the stadium and we're also using the field as well but we wanted to kind of do something that we've never done before," he told media outlets ahead of the show. "So we built the stage in the stadium but I'm not gonna tell you anything else, because you'll have to watch on Sunday."
The Weeknd kicked off his performance in a flashy convertible, with a Vegas cityscape and flashing Pepsi logos behind him. He belted out some of his top hits as well as some deep cuts in an electric performance with the help of a shining robotic choir.
Breaking tradition from previous Super Bowl shows, the pop artist did not have a surprise guest, which is likely to avoid close contact during the pandemic.
As reported by Deadline, the dazzling performance was staged in front of a masked and socially distanced crowd of 25,000 fans, including 7,500 vaccinated health care workers, and 30,000 life size cut-outs at Tampa Bay’s 70,000 capacity Raymond James Stadium.
The Weeknd started out with 2016’s Starboy and then 2015’s The Hills to Can’t Feel My Face, I Feel It Coming, Save Your Tears and more, picking just the right hits for a great halftime performance.
In a head-spinning sequence, The Weeknd went through a claustrophobic hall of mirrors surrounded by facially bandaged dopplegangers dressed as his recent character personality.
The dizzying segue broke through the fourth wall when the artist took the performance from the staged area in the stands to the open football field, along with over 100 masked backup dancers. The visually stunning dance number was done to The Weeknd’s 2011 tune House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls before the artist ended the pop culture homage with 2020’s Blinding Lights.
As with previous Super Bowl halftime performances, The Weeknd incorporated lights, fog and fireworks to amplify the one-of-a-kind performance that artists everywhere have been describing as "epic."
The setup was made possible in part to The Weeknd himself, who reportedly fronted $7 million of his own money—in addition to the budget already allocated for the show—to ensure the performance was the vision he wanted.
The New York Times reported on the lengths that the crew went to avoid transmitting COVID-19 to stage the typically massive halftime show, from conducting daily nasal swabs to frequent handwashing, which led to bathroom trailers consuming three times as much water as they did at Super Bowl LIV in Miami last year.
Amid a year where most live performances have been halted and everyone has been battling pandemic fatigue and political and social unrest, the resulting show staged live resonated with the millions watching in various stages of COVID-19 lockdown across the country and the world. The Weeknd's performance is sure to go down in Super Bowl history, along with memorable past performances headlined by Michael Jackson (1993), Prince (2007), Beyoncé (2013) and last year's sizzling Shakira and Jennifer Lopez duo.
- Call Out My Name (played as intro)
- The Hills
- Can't Feel My Face
- I Feel It Coming ft Daft Punk
- Save Your Tears
- Earned It
- House of Balloons
- Blinding Lights
Watch the full video of The Weeknd's full Super Bowl LV halftime performance below.
Since the very first Super Bowl in 1967, the championship football game has always included a halftime show featuring musical arists.
(Images via NFL)