Maroon 5 headlined the Super Bowl LIII halftime show Sunday, ignoring calls for the band to skip the gig in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the #TakeAKnee movement to protest racial injustices. But despite the controversy and criticism in the weeks leading up to the performance, the end result wound up being pretty tame.
In what may have been an attempt to avoid any further controversy, Adam Levine and company played it safe, delivering a by-the-numbers greatest hits show, with Levine ultimately stripping off his black jacket, a black shirt with a red stripe, and finally a tank top, to reveal his famously tatted torso. The removal of his shirt was the performance’s most-tweeted-about moment.
Maroon 5’s set included the early hits “Harder to Breathe, “This Love” and “She Will be Loved,” followed by the more recent “Girls Like You,” “Sugar” and “Moves Like Jagger.” They were helped out by local artists Equinox Percussion and the Voice of Atlanta gospel choir.
In between, rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi were brought out to perform their respective hits “Sicko Mode” and the Outkast hit, “The Way You Move.”
During the performance, the audience held lit Japanese lanterns with words written on them, which they then released to float into the air.
The halftime show also featured a seconds-long tribute to the late Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the hit Nickelodeon cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, who passed away last November. The tribute was a reference to an episode of the show titled “Band Geeks,” which featured one of the show’s characters, Squidward, directing a halftime show in which various residents of Bikini Bottom performed “Sweet Victory.”
While the band didn’t perform “Sweet Victory” — much to the dismay of fans who signed a Change.org petition demanding that they do — Squidward did appear momentarily to introduce Travis Scott.
Following the show, Adam Levine wrote on Instagram, “When we accepted the responsibility to perform at the SBHTS, I took out my pen and just wrote. Some of the words that came to me in that moment eventually made their way onto the incredible lanterns that flew high and low tonight.”
He added, “We thank the universe for this historic opportunity to play on the world’s biggest stage. We thank our fans for making our dreams possible. And we thank our critics for always pushing us to do better. One Love.”
He then listed the words written on the Japanese lanterns, which included Forgive, Embrace, Enlighten, Remember, Elevate, Unify, Soften, Educate, Kneel, Overcome and Love.
As for the game, the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3, to take home their sixth championship, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins.
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