But there were a few nagging questions: Was she live or was she canned? Or perhaps more to the point: Did it matter?
Beyonce's performance had the lip-sync police out in force. The pop star fessed up to singing with a backing tape at the presidential inauguration a few weeks ago, but that should come as no surprise. Canned performances have been business as usual at Super Bowl-sized events for decades. For most performers, the question isn't whether to use a backing tape, but whether to sing into an open microphone while the tape serves as a kind of aural safety net.
Sound engineers note that the entire performance has to be set up in six minutes at halftime, with no guarantees that the singer will be able to hear herself or that there will be technical glitches that compromise the performance. Most artists are in it strictly to look and sound good anyway. They don't view it as a "performance" so much as a way to promote product to more than 100 million TV viewers; in Beyonce's case, it was a free ad for her recent reunion and greatest hits album with Destiny's Child.
And, wow, guess what? There she was with her Destiny Child companions
The leather-clad trio looked like a walking, strutting advertisement for a dominatrix-boutique franchise. But Rowland and Williams came off as Beyonce's backing band, dutifully singing harmonies on one of the singer's biggest solo singles, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Her Destiny's Child accomplices were part of a huge ensemble of dancers and musicians that appeared to consist entirely of women.
Otherwise, it was the high-heeled Beyonce stomping her imprint on libidos everywhere: the silhouetted opening countoff into "Crazy in Love," topped with a firecracker-spewing guitar solo; the Jamaican dancehall flavor of "Baby Boy"; the closing, signature ballad "Halo." On the latter, the close-up TV images suggested that the singer was indeed belting it out, at least semi-"live." But by then the verdict was already in: Beyonce affirmed that she's the reigning all-purpose multimedia celebrity of our era, and she knows how to entertain.
The musical prelude to the game was relatively low-key in comparison.
Seated at a white grand piano, Keys offered a blues and jazz-tinged version of the technically demanding song. Like Gaye, she made the song seem fragile, even poignant, the intimacy undercutting any threat of the showboating that sank
Its tone was appropriate given what preceded it: