Show is safe with McCartney

Published February 4, 2005

JACKSONVILLE - With all the flashbulbs popping Thursday in Prime Osborn Convention Center, you'd think the Beatles were coming or something.

Oh, wait. The Beatles actually were coming.

Actually, it was just Paul McCartney, the headlining act of this year's Super Bowl halftime show. But to witness the hundreds of reporters and 40-plus television cameras in attendance, you'd think the NFL was bringing George Bush in to sing Cotton-Eyed Joe.

Everyone wanted to be in the same room with Sir Paul. And everyone had the same question on his mind.

"Any thought as to what portion of your body you might expose during the Super Bowl?" asked the first reporter.

McCartney took the question in stride, because he and the NFL have expected it since last year's halftime show, when Janet Jackson, shall we say, let it all hang out.

"I can safely tell you I won't," McCartney said of Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" incident. "Because we're going to play naked."

Actually, Fox, the NFL and the man in charge of this year's performance, veteran live show producer Don Mischer, are all going to great lengths to make sure no one gets naked in Jacksonville.

"What happened last year was unfortunate," the Emmy-winning Mischer said. "The NFL has really come to realize the extent to which they need to be more conscious of what's going on, who's going out there, what the songs are, what they're wearing.

"I'm not anticipating anything, but you never know. Live television is live television. We can't control everything."

Maybe, but it won't be for lack of trying. McCartney, the ultimate mainstream performer, is sure to play a few Beatles standards, a far cry not just from Jackson, but from other halftime headliners of the past few years: Kid Rock, Aerosmith, No Doubt, even U2.

Mischer, though, said McCartney had been on the NFL's wish list for years, but the singer couldn't fit it into his schedule.

"We want it to be fun, we want it to be spectacular, we want to have some surprises, we want to strike hopefully an emotional chord with people," he said. "I think we stand a great opportunity of doing that with Paul McCartney."

It has been more than 40 years since McCartney played Jacksonville, a Beatles performance that was initially postponed by Hurricane Dora. He said everything he has seen has seemed to prove Jacksonville worthy of hosting this year's Super Bowl.

"As long as it's a great game, a good show, I'm sure Jacksonville will pull it off," he said.

Jackson's defrocking may have intensified the focus on the Super Bowl halftime show, but McCartney said he's not intimidated by the pressure. In fact, he said he didn't even see last year's Super Bowl - an endorsement the NFL must have surely appreciated.

"It's still a great honor to do it," McCartney said. "I was really just told how long I had to play, so I just said what I wanted to do, and they said okay. So I'm pretty much doing what I want to do."

Mischer said 600 local volunteers have worked night and day during rehearsals to get the 58-piece set ready. During the game, organizers will have only six minutes to construct what Mischer said is "the largest and technically the most complicated and complex halftime show ever attempted."

McCartney offered no hints on which tunes he has picked for the show, and he declined to say which team he's pulling for.

"In truth, I'm rooting for both of them," he said. "May the best man win."

Truly a statement free of controversy. Janet, your legacy lives on.

Jay Cridlin can be reached at cridlin@sptimes.com