Coldplay takes backseat to Beyoncé, Bruno at halftime

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Coldplay became sideline entertainment at their own Super Bowl halftime show.

On paper, the British rockers were the headliners of Sunday’s halftime extravaganza. But with the announcement that they would be joined by Bruno Mars and Beyoncé — and with Beyoncé surprise-releasing her new single “Formation” just 24 hours before the show — the deck was stacked against Coldplay.

Sure enough, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé stole the show. By the end, when Beyoncé, Bruno and Coldplay’s Chris Martin strutted down the stage’s long catwalk, Martin looked happy just to be there.

Coldplay opened the show by their lonesome, firing off big renditions of “Viva la Vida,” “Paradise” and their funk-lite recent single “A Head Full of Dreams.” Martin worked the crowd that surrounded the stage and bounced on command, but didn’t do enough to engage the bigger audience in the stands or on TV, at one point turning inward toward his band like they were at a jam session in their studio.

Coldplay has always aimed to be as big as U2, but U2 knows how to make bigger-than-life moments that transcend the band and touch people’s lives. They know how to light a spark. Coldplay seemed dwarfed by the big stage, and the cool production elements — including a full LED stage that lit up when shot from above — couldn’t help them make a connection.

Thankfully, they had some pretty good backup. An energized Bruno Mars, dressed in all black and backed by a crew of dancers, hit one side of the stage and performed his smash hit “Uptown Funk,” joined by producer and artist Mark Ronson, who acted as his DJ. Mars, who headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in 2014, was on fire and hit some moves that would make MC Hammer proud.

Of course, nobody puts Beyoncé in a corner, and she boldly took the opportunity to perform her fresh-from-the-oven new single “Formation.” The charged single — sample line: “You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making” — already seems like a hit, and Beyoncé and her team of a dozen-plus dancers stepped it out on the field, in heels no less, which no doubt put some wear and tear on the field.

Bruno, Beyoncé and their respective crews, all dressed in black and gold, approached each other and met in the middle of the stage and continued reprising “Uptown Funk.” Then Martin, dressed in a color-splashed white T-shirt, jeans and colorful sneakers, joined them as they worked the runway.

That should have been the end of the show, but Bruno and Beyoncé disappeared and Martin dashed back to his piano and performed the intro to “Clocks” while images of Super Bowl halftimes past were projected onto the stage. We got Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and others, an instance of the Super Bowl doing the most Super Bowl of things: paying tribute to itself.

The band segued into its ballad “Fix You,” the lyrics, “When you lose something you cannot replace” coinciding with images of Super Bowl entertainers whom we have lost, including Michael Jackson, James Brown, Whitney Houston and Clarence Clemons.

Over the “Fix You” melody, Martin sang bits of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women Pt. 1,” all songs performed at halftimes past, before being joined by Bruno, Beyoncé and a chorus of dozens while singing Coldplay’s “Up&Up” from their latest album “A Head Full of Dreams.”

But it felt like a tacked-on close. The real fireworks had already happened, and they had little to do with the headliners of the show.