Before the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams kicked off Super Bowl LIII, Gladys Knight took the field to honor America with the national anthem.
The 74-year-old Motown legend and Empress of Soul sang a hearty rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a Joint Service Color Guard from the Military District of Washington stood behind her with an American flag and flags representing each of the five military services.
Knight, in a knee-length white gown accented with jewels and a silver headpiece in her hair, was fairly straightforward in her version, adding a few vocal runs to the closing notes but otherwise sticking to the script. Cameras panned around the field, catching shots of various players on the sidelines, as well as a satellite shot of American soldiers stationed in South Korea.
Knight’s anthem ran just past the two-minute mark. Her words didn’t always line up with her gesturing, especially near the end, leading some online to speculate the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was lip syncing.
Still, Knight was sturdy and strong, and didn’t hijack the spotlight by making it about herself.
More adventurous was Atlanta sister duo Chloe x Halle, who offered up their version of “America the Beautiful” before Knight’s anthem performance. The young pair, who are nominated for Best New Artist at this month’s Grammys, turned heads with their flavorful rendition of the song, which overcame the over-anxious instrumentation and stole the early spotlight in the entertainment portion of the evening.