BRUCE!

I don’t have to tell you that Sunday is huge. And I don’t have to tell you why Sunday is huge.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are performing at halftime of the Super Bowl.

Actually, like everything else with the Super Bowl, my excitement over Bruce and the Big Man bustin’ Tampa in half with a Raymond James Stadium freeze-out is part real interest and excitement and part being willfully suckered into the outrageous hype machine that surrounds everything even remotely involved in the country’s biggest sports day of the year.

It’s not like Bruce hasn’t performed on television before. Since he broke his “no TV” rule in 1992 by performing on Saturday Night Live, Springsteen has done the variety/talk show circuit with regularity (he wisely stayed away from Rosie Live). And it’s not like Bruce is some sort of hermit suddenly breaking out of his shell to perform in front of the year’s largest audience. The guy has been touring seemingly non-stop since the nineties. But for the first time, I have to admit that I’m as intrigued by the halftime show as I am for the game itself. And I think it will be a pretty good game. (I’m taking the Cardinals, as I said in my last post.)

The fun for a Springsteen fan like myself is figuring out what he’s going to do; more specifically, how will he and the E Street Band condense one of their typical 3-hour shows into 12 minutes?

If I was in Vegas and there was a bet for this sort of thing (and there probably is),  here’s the set list I would bet on:

Hungry Heart / The Rising / Working On A Dream / Born To Run

Here’s my rationale: “Hungry Heart” is a short song, it’s an immediately recognizable hit, and it would get the halftime show off to a rousing start. (“The Promised Land” is my second guess for an opening.) Bruce did “The Rising” at Obama’s inauguration, indicating that he is redefining the song from a post-9/11 call-to-action to a post-Bush call-to-action. “Working On A Dream” will be the bummer of the halftime, but Bruce is there to try to sell records, which is not an easy task anymore period but especially given our current economic climate. “Born To Run” is the obvious call of the show, and I would personally be more stunned if Bruce didn’t play “Born To Run” than I would be if Kurt Warner played the entire second half without pants.

Bruce, if you’re reading this (and I know you’re a big Teri Barr fan who spends a great deal of time at channel3000.com), here’s my preferred set list:

Badlands / Murder Incorporated / Dancing In The Dark / Born To Run

At the E Street Band reunion shows of 1999-2000, the “Badlands” / “Murder Inc.” back-to-back shot was always a highlight. I would love Bruce to do a couple of dark songs to not only reflect the times we’re going through, but I think the commerciality of him playing at the “Bridgestone Super Bowl XLIII Halftime Show” (which is I believe is his first “sponsored” concert appearance) would be somewhat lessened by the performance of a couple relatively non-commercial numbers. After the bleakness of those tracks, the recently-revised-and-resurrected “Dancing In The Dark” would simply be a ton of fun, while serving as a microcosm of his concerts, which flow easily from depressing ballads to road house rave-ups. If Bruce would deliver those three songs, then I would be fine with the obvious “Born To Run.” (But if Springsteen wanted to substitute “She’s The One” or “Adam Raised A Cain,” I wouldn’t complain.)

But I am certain of one thing. Even if the game itself is a dog, the halftime show will be memorable. We have come a long way since the days when the Super Bowl halftime show consisted of Up with People (1986) and George Burns and Mickey Rooney (1987).

I am also certain of one thing: Bo Ryan is an annoyed man. His press conference after the Purdue game on Tuesday was the very definition of “slow burn.” But I don’t blame him for being tired of the press: How many times can you say that you need more offensive production, i.e. points? I guess about as many times as people like me can write about it.  

But I am about to make a bold prediction, even a bolder one than predicting what songs Bruce will play on Sunday. Starting Saturday at Northwestern, the Badgers will go on a winning streak that will last longer than their current five-game losing streak. I’m looking at six games in a row. Their chances of making the NCAA tournament depend on it.

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