Did anyone catch that Rihanna show when a football game broke out on either side of it? Wild stuff. But while the eyes of the world were on the 2023 Super Bowl Halftime Show, and the Eagles-Chiefs game that also happened alongside it, Billboard was backstage, on the field, on the concourses and under the stadium itself catching as much of the behind-the-scenes action as possible.
3:15: Jordin Sparks — who is from Arizona, and whose father, Phillippi, played nine years in the NFL for the Giants and Cowboys — stopped by the field to tell Billboard about the Rihanna songs she was most looking forward to seeing (“Wild Thoughts,” “Run This Town,” “Umbrella”) and her new single, “Stadiums.” “I grew up around sports and football, my dad played, so I know how important it is to have a good song to pump you up before you come out in these moments,” she said.
3:25: Isiah Pacheco came over to help pump up the Chiefs fans by the sideline ahead of the game — and would have probably been glad to have seen Paul Rudd wearing a Pacheco jersey on the sidelines, chatting it up with a small crew of people before the game got underway.
5:05: Jay-Z is in the house, Lil Uzi Vert is here and GloRilla just walked past Gate 2 on the main concourse of the stadium — but Chiefs fans also gave a huge cheer to Tech N9ne, a son of Kansas City who has made it a point to build an industry around himself in his hometown rather than move to a more industry-connected hip-hop center, when he was shown on the big screen.
5:25: Any fan who could pull themselves away from the action on the field could walk outside to see some two hundred people milling around wearing puffy canvas suits with black plastic drapes over their heads and shoulders, waiting for the call — and trying to hang onto their drapes as the wind began whipping around Glendale.
5:54: At the two minute warning of the first half, the big group of dancers moved inside the stadium and down a back causeway to the field level, where everyone gathered around the one TV on the wall to try to catch a glimpse of what was happening on the field — and whether or not Patrick Mahomes’ ankle was injured as badly as it seemed at the time. The final two minutes of the game took almost 30 minutes of real time — minutes that were spent pacing in the depths of the stadium without much else to do before the main show began.
6:22: It is hard to overstate just how high in the air Rihanna and her dancers were and how relatively small those platforms were. From the field level, it was absolutely terrifying how high they were — and with the noise of the crowd and the fireworks, not to mention the show itself, absolutely terrifying. But that’s why Rihanna is one of the best to do it.
6:41: Press was very quickly ushered off the field following the performance — and encountered the troupe of marshmallow-clad dancers in the back causeway once again. The dancers, understandably relieved and jubilant that it was over, got a big ovation from everybody who walked past. The dancers also got to take the escalators back up — a small but well-earned perk, as everyone else trudged up the ramps.
8:08: As the inevitable Mahomes gut punch closes in, Eagles fans around the concourse completed a remarkable 26-minute turnaround: from questioning the existence of religion itself, to pure elation at the excellence of Jalen Hurts, to utter, depressing despair. As they filed out of the stadium minutes later, one fan was heard lamenting about the Eagles performance, “Rihanna was better than everyone on the field except for [tight end Dalls] Goedert.”
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