Country star Chris Stapleton made the national anthem a simple affair at Super Bowl 57, standing alone on the field accompanied by only his electric guitar as he sang “The Star Spangled Banner” moments before the Kansas City Chiefs kickoff to the Philadelphia Eagles to start the game.
Dressed simply in smooth black denim and sunglasses, with neatly combed hair instead of his signature feathered cowboy hat, he sang the anthem as a plaintive ballad, picking it up to rock only briefly as he delivered the final lines “banner yet wave” and “land of the free!”
His anthem felt slow, but it clocked in at 2 minutes, 2 seconds, under the 2 minutes, 5 seconds predicted by oddsmakers. But it was more than 10 seconds longer than last year’s sung by another country star, Mickey Guyton.
As the eight-time Grammy winner sang, “CODA” star Troy Kotsur, the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar, signed the anthem lyrics.
Before Stapleton’s anthem, “Abbot Elementary” star Sheryl Lee Ralph performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Wearing a flowing red velvet gown, Ralph began the song dubbed the Black national anthem as a reflective ballad, and it became a soaring hymn as it went on, with military-style drums joining her and a choir dressed all in white chiming in behind her on the field at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
And R&B legend Babyface delivered “America the Beautiful” as a soulful folk song, playing an acoustic guitar painted with an American flag and blue flowers as he stood alone on the field. A backing track with drum machines and singers kicked in before he was done.
Coming up at the half
Rihanna promises that her 13-minute halftime show will be “jam-packed” will sit at the center of the celebrity supplements to Super Bowl 57.
The show will be her first live event in seven years, and comes as her fans are hungry for long-awaited new music.
“The setlist was the biggest challenge,” she said this week. “That was the hardest, hardest part. Deciding how to maximize 13 minutes but also celebrate — that’s what this show is going to be. It’s going to be a celebration of my catalogue.”
Famous fans, performers and pitch people
Die-hard Chiefs fan Paul Rudd was on the field before the game, sporting a big smile and a team jersey.
Philadelphia native Bradley Cooper, wearing an Eagles T-shirt, celebrated from the stands as his team put the game’s first points on the board. Another famous Philly fan, Kevin Hart, wearing a jersey, stood and flapped his arms.
Jay-Z and chef Gordon Ramsay were among other celebrity fans seen arriving.
Pregame performances came from DJ Snake and Jason Derulo, whose backup dancers included synchronized robot dogs.
Many stars have made the scene at Super Bowl week parties.
And many others, including Serena Williams, Adam Driver and John Travolta, are showing up in the big game’s big commercials.