PHOENIX, Arizona (AFP) — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked Super Bowl 42 Sunday, joining an elite list of pop legends to lend themselves in recent years to the National Football League’s title extravaganza.The venerable US band, who launched their career with the their self-titled debut album in 1976, opened the 12-minute set with “American Girl,” as a neon-ringed arrow wheeled from one end of the field to join with a brightly lit heart-shaped stage and form their logo.
Fans responded enthusiastically to the chance for some audience participation with flashlights in the darkened stadium as the band launched into “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Falling” and “Running Down a Dream.”
Looking ahead to the gig, in which he follows in the recent footsteps of U2, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Prince, Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Petty had said he wasn’t thinking about the vastness of the audience.
The game was being broadcast in 223 countries and territories and 30 languages.
“A lot is just trying to remember the next chord,” said Petty, who added he would just try to entertain the crowd at the 70,500-seat University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Glendale, the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
In the build-up to the big game, New England coach Bill Belichick had said he’d have Tom Petty on his playlist before the game.
“It has never kept anyone from winning,” Petty said.
Pre-game festivities were highlighted by rhythm and blues star Alicia Keys, while Jordin Sparks, the 2007 winner of the “American Idol” talent-show TV series, sang the national anthem in her hometown.
Sparks’ father, Phillipi Sparks, was a Giants cornerback in eight of his nine NFL seasons, but never played in a Super Bowl.
“He’s glad one of us made it,” she said.