By Barry Janoff
December 18, 2016: New York City-born Lady Gaga may be the featured act for the Super Bowl LI Pepsi Zero Sugar Halftime Show in Houston’s NRG Stadium — a geographical anomaly that long has been the NFL’s trademark — but the Super Bowl LI Host Committee knows what the people who live in and will visit want to hear: home-grown authentic music born-and-bred in Texas.
To that end, the roster of musicians just named by the Host Committee and scheduled to play Super Bowl LIVE in downtown Houston is topped by "That Little ‘Ol Band From Texas," ZZ Top, which is still comprised of the original trio of Billy F. Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, who have been making music for more than 40 years.
In fact, the Host Committee said that "Houston Pride will be the overriding theme throughout Super Bowl LIVE, both in the performers, the attractions and the food throughout the festival."
"The Host Committee has championed the theme that Houston is the city of the future throughout our preparations for Super Bowl LI," Sallie Sargent, Host Committee president and CEO, said, in a statement. "There are so many great features and stories to tell about Houston, we wanted to make sure we showcased as many as we could for the thousands of visitors that will be coming here."
Super Bowl LIVE is the Host Committee’s signature nine-day free fan festival leading up to Super Bowl LI in Houston, on Feb. 5, 2017.
A free event with music, food, games and attractions, it will be located in and around Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston from Jan. 28-Feb. 5.
The Host Committee said it is anticipating attendance of one million people over the nine days.
"A tremendous mix of musical styles and genres will take the main stage of Super Bowl LIVE over the course of the nine days," said the Super Bowl LI Host Committee, "focused on local Houston and Texas acts to feature on the main stage."
ZZ Top is scheduled to be be on the main stage at Super Bowl LIVE on Feb. 4, the day before the Big Game, joined by Gary Clark Jr. (born in Austin) and The Suffers (based in Houston).
On Feb. 3, the main stage is scheduled to see performances by Leon Bridges (a native of Fort Worth, TX), Shakey Graves (from Austin) and Robert Ellis (Lake Jackson, TX).
On Feb. 2, the lineup is scheduled to include Solange Knowles, Robert Glasper and Lizzo (all born and/or raised in Houston.
Houston-based performers will also be on the main and secondary Super Bowl LIVE stages throughout the week, including The Tontons, Wild Moccasins, Los Skarnales, Nick Gaitan, Fat Tony and Buxton.
Houston LIVE, an exhibition located within the Super Bowl LIVE footprint, will focus on the history of the city with three major themes: Celebrate,‘Inspire and Energize.
In addition the Host Committee said it would showcase the space industry by partnering with NASA and leading aerospace companies to create Future Flight, the signature attraction of Super Bowl LIVE. Future Flight combines a virtual reality experience with a 90-foot drop tower "that takes passengers on a trip to Mars and back."
The Host Committee plans to make extensive use of Houston-area food trucks to feed the crowds at Super Bowl LIVE, "strategically located in several areas throughout the festival."
For various reasons — logistically, financially, spiritually, ecumenically and grammatically— the NFL has long been adverse to featuring hometown musicians as the lead performers during its half time shows.
This past February, with the historic Super Bowl 50 played in Santa Clara and encompassing the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pepsi Half Time show starred London-based Coldplay, Houston-born-and-raised Beyoncé (who would have been a perfect choice for this coming Super Bowl) and Bruno Mars, from Hawaii.
Super Bowl XLIX, played in the University of Phoenix, featured at half time Santa Barbara, Calif.-born Katy Perry (who, again, would have been a great lead player for Super Bowl 50) and New York-born Lenny Kravitz.
Kravitz should have been a lead player during Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and Jets, which starred at half time Bruno Mars and Los Angeles icons Red Hot Chili Peppers.
In Super Bowl XLVII, played in music-rich New Orleans, the half time show was led by Beyoncé and a reunion of her Destiny’s Child. Michigan’s own Madonna starred during the half time show at Super Bowl XLVI (played in Indianapolis).
L.A.- based Black Eyed Peas topped the bill in the half time show at Super Bowl XLV. But at least Dallas native Usher performed during the game that year, played in what is now AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys.
Will the NFL make some ammends during Super Bowl LII in 2018, to be played in Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium by having a half time show with some dedication to the late local icon, Prince (who led the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in Miami)? Time will tell.