If you haven’t seen the Super Bowl half-time show, Dre and Co, you should take 30 seconds out of your day to watch the time-lapse version. You will stand in awe and marvel. You will wonder why did it take America so long to get to the moon, and why do we still have world hunger?
It is as if – as my family have asked me to stop saying – you staged a quick Garth Brooks show in the middle of the All-Ireland. With replays and semi-finals, Garth could do his five shows, briefly, without inconveniencing the Croke Park residents. Non Garth fans could linger in the bar and return to their seats to see no visible evidence he’d played, the grass still pristine.
Mind you, as I bored those in my extended bubble with details of ‘turnaround times’ and ‘synchronised assembly’, I couldn’t help but suspect that we hadn’t all seen the same show. One person goaded me that I was at last eulogising contemporary music and not ‘that old rock shite’, and yet, where I was sitting, I could have sworn the songs were older than Dua Lipa.
Another person told me it was great how Dre had kept politics out of it and just stuck to the music and entertainment. This required me to watch the entire performance again. I had to conclude that they had actually watched Dancing With The Stars by accident.
For Dre simply being on stage is political. He was Black Lives Matter before BLM existed. His first band was called NWA. He did not perform their most famous police-related song, but he did sing ‘still not loving the police’ during the ‘biggest gig in the world.’ Eminem took the knee. There was politics.
But some others saw a really, really different show. Sean Spicer, one of Trump’s White House press secretaries, tweeted that it was “basically pornography on television. Absolutely disgusting.” And Charlie Kirk, the 28-year-old poster boy for the conservative right, tweeted that it was “sexual anarchy”.
This was one serious “difference in perception”. It reminded me of an old discussion of porn that was used in the Sixties by a US justice. He said he didn’t need to define porn as, “I know it when you see it.” So I had I seen it and not known it?
I watched it again, this time alone in a darkened room. I swear, I didn’t feel creepy at all. Again I found myself returning to the Dancing with the Stars analogy. RTÉ’s Sunday night family show is a more risqué affair. If you think what happened at Super Bowl was ‘raunchy’ you need to get out more.
Brighter people than me saw darker forces at play behind these comments. The political undertones on that stage did not escape those who made such remarks. Mostly black artists, singing about real-life struggles in America and triumphing despite everything. This was just good-old-boy racism at play.
It echoed previous white reactions to jazz music in the 1920s, and later the blues. The sexual threat, the risk to white society. The need to segregate, ban, remove from our screens. They haven’t gone away you know, and worse, they are so bloody young.
The only mature response to such comments is to try and imagine what exactly “sexual anarchy” is. I’ve tried but it’s impossible. It is one of those things we will never understand. All we can say for certain is that it is probably better than whatever the opposite is, and more craic.
This ‘collision between opposite worlds’ reminded me of the one time in my life that I saw something similar up close and personal. It was Oxegen 2005, the first one to sell out in advance, and the year of Green Day, The Foo Fighters, The Killers, New Order and so many more.
The hip hop world (Sexual Anarchy) was represented by Snoop Dogg, Civilisation (Hay Rap) by our own Saw Doctors. After the show, Snoop was making his way to his dressing room drinking, as only he could, red wine from a huge gold chalice.
The Doctors were equally celebratory, making their way to their own dressing room whilst carrying a huge tray of ham sandwiches. There was just the briefest moment when these two worlds passed within touching distance of each other.
Snoop eyed the sandwiches. The Saw Doctors eyed the gold chalice. “There ya are,” said the Doctors. “Yeah,” said Snoop, “here I am.”