(CNN) — The sports world is raving about Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will enter his 10th Super Bowl this Sunday against rival Patrick Mahomes and the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. But when Brady, seeking his seventh ring in a safe Hall of Fame run, leaves the field at halftime, he will cede center stage to a man who has made the decisions for 12 consecutive Super Bowls, and whose decisions will be discussed, debated and perhaps even danced. He is responsible for the Super Bowl halftime show.
For much the action in the field does not matter; this weekend it’s about The Weeknd. And the man who will help bring the pop superstar to the Super Bowl LV halftime show is a British television director named Hamish Hamilton.
Since the 2010 show titled The Who, Hamilton, who is now 54 years old and has received multiple awards, has been tasked with showcasing musicians so famous that we know them by only one name: Madonna! Beyoncé! Gaga! – or groupings that are the soundtrack of a generation, like Coldplay, Maroon 5 and Black Eyes Peas.
The worldwide interest in the halftime show is nothing new, though 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the NFL’s turnaround from traditional marching band performances to contemporary music acts, and boy was that a big change. .
Celebrities who have been to the Super Bowl halftime show
Super Bowl XXV — which was also held in Tampa — began with a sublime rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by none other than Whitney Houston.
Halftime was billed as “A Little Worldwide Salute to 25 Years of the Special Bowl” with a performance by New Kids on the Block. But the news of the day changed the programming.
Operation Desert Storm caused the Super Bowl halftime show to be taped and presented after the game ended, as the news of the Gulf War broke between the two halves.
That was a watershed moment and the league never looked back and started hiring mega-famous artists like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Boyz II Men in the 1990s.
The first decade of 2000 saw U2’s cathartic post-9/11 performance, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s infamous 2004 “Nipplegate,” and Prince in 2007, often cited as the best halftime show in the world. Super Bowl of history.
All of these performances were pivotal moments before Hamilton took the reins in 2010.
The audience for the Super Bowl halftime show has even dwarfed viewers of the game itself at times: In 2015, Katy Perry and her colorful companions drew 118.5 million viewers, compared to the average viewership for the game. 114.4 million.
From Blackpool to the Super Bowl halftime show
For Hamilton, raised in the North of England in the 1970s, the very notion of the Super Bowl, much less the halftime show, was a strange concept, as he liked English soccer more than American football.
“I grew up in Blackpool,” Hamilton told CNN Sport in a rare interview. “Those were the days before the internet, mobile phones and global media sharing. My only knowledge of the sport really was my local football team Blackpool, and many miles away in the big city, Liverpool, which at that time dominated European football.
Hamilton attracted America’s attention after directing numerous BRIT Awards, the British equivalent of the Grammys, and while he has the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and Oscars on his resume, directing the halftime show of the Super Bowl is, well, the Super Bowl of your career.
“We always look across the Atlantic to this unknown land of opportunity and excellence,” he says. “Now, to be creating these huge shows in the very epicenter of American culture fills me with enormous pride.”
The logistics involved in putting on the halftime show is arguably as complicated as trying to win the Super Bowl itself.
It takes a lot of months, involves a lot of people – this Super Bowl halftime show also counts Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s Roc Nation as co-executive producer – and the song, so to speak, remains the same: turning a soccer field in a concert hall and a concert hall in a soccer field in less than 30 minutes.
Hamilton acknowledges that each lead artist is different when it comes to the time they spend collaborating on the entire production, but “they have a vision and our role is to bring that vision to life. At the end of the day, the mission is to create 12 minutes of entertainment at halftime of a football game in February.
Hamilton is well aware of how much this concert means to musicians – “a defining moment in their career and a large part of their artistic legacy” – in the context of multiple challenges.
“You have to get a stage out in seven or eight minutes, put it all together, build it and take it apart,” says Hamilton. “In a world that is fracturing, it’s a great lesson in what people can build under tremendous stress when they work together and trust each other… It’s extraordinary.”
“It’s an adrenaline roller coaster and honestly, you spend 12 minutes focused, just trying to keep the train on track and deliver what everyone wants you to deliver.”
Concerns amid the covid-19 pandemic
Presenting this year’s program is going to be a monumental task, with the coronavirus pandemic looming over the proceedings, despite the launch of the vaccine across the country.
The 25,000 fans in attendance must wear face covers at all times and are receiving personal protective equipment, a Super Bowl-branded face mask, hand sanitizer and NFL wipes upon arrival.
The impact on the halftime show will be considerable. After all, this is an event that involves a multitude of artists on stage and where physical distancing is the antithesis of what is usually a very coordinated and packed affair.
Hamilton refuses to reveal anything, although he admits that “he has put a very different set of parameters around production. [Pero] We’ve met the challenge the same way we do every year, so I guess all I’d say to everyone is, ‘Tune in and see for yourself.’
But The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) confirmed that “we built the stage at the stadium,” while executive producer Jesse Collins told Entertainment Tonight, “we are going to use the stadium to present the show in a way that we never will. before it had been presented ».
The performers are smart enough to perform without charging a league fee, because the intense interest generated by their appearance on the halftime show pays for itself, although the NFL supposedly provides a budget.
The Weeknd’s show at Super Bowl halftime
Although Hamilton is unwilling to release details, The Weeknd’s manager, Wassim “Sal” Slaiby, told Billboard magazine that his star client contributed $ 7 million of his own money to “make this halftime show a reality. what he imagined.
For his part, when speaking with CNN Sport and the rest of the virtual media gathered on Thursday, The Weeknd did refer to putting his hand in his pocket.
“I don’t think I have enough money,” he jokes when told that it is not too late to bring in a helicopter, which is what his favorite part-time performer, Diana Ross, did at the conclusion of her show in 1996.
When Hamilton talks about his memories of the halftime show, sporting parallels emerge with the teams playing in the Super Bowl. Reflecting on the many important artists he has worked with, his observations of the Coldplay frontman evoke a team player, rather than an individual talent who doesn’t want to share the ball, or rather the stage.
“Chris Martin is the most generous of artists,” says Hamilton of his fellow Britons Coldplay as the headliners of Super Bowl 50 in 2016. “So he calls his friend Beyonce, calls his friend Bruno Mars, and literally persuades them.” .
“They were both a bit reluctant at first and he said, ‘Come on, guys!’ And then Beyonce shows up with a hundred dancers, and Bruno shows up with his entourage. And what a great show it was… That ended up being defined at the last minute, in a dance studio behind a laundry. If people knew what is happening in this little dance studio, they would be surprised.
But if you can get the boy out of Blackpool, you can’t get Blackpool out of the boy. Hamilton looks back to his native UK and raises the question of whether English football would ever take an example from the NFL and add an extra layer of entertainment to games.
“I was a football fanatic as a kid, I used to watch the FA Cup, and that was the most important thing on the schedule,” he says of the closest comparison to the Super Bowl in England. »It would be great if the FA decided to do a halftime show and a pregame the same way as the NFL. The NFL has been brilliant, they are very supportive at halftime and really invested financially, creatively and logistically in creating this centerpiece at halftime.
“It is the union of sport, music and entertainment and it really works. I don’t think there is a better example of this in the world.