TAMPA, FL, February 19, 2009—Fireworks and a capacity crowd at Raymond James Stadium helped propel Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band through a high-energy halftime gambol at this year's Super Bowl, during which The Boss ripped through standards, including "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," "Born to Run," and "Glory Days," tossing in the title cut from his new album, "Working on a Dream" among them just to keep an even strain on things. Taking the stage with 32 channels of wireless, Springsteen called upon vocal mics for the performance supplied by Niles, Illinois-based Shure Incorporated in the form of UHF-R® handheld transmitters topped withSM58 ®capsules.
"The most wireless channels we ever had before at this event was 28," notes audio designer and Super Bowl veteran Pat Baltzell. "That's wireless microphones and in-ear monitors, not counting intercom. When we initially started working with Bruce for this year's show, he requested 56 wireless frequencies. As the first point of contact with the band, I had to be the bad cop and tell them that it just wasn't going to happen."
Beyond the broadcast presence of media from around the globe, one of the major contributors to making the Super Bowl one of the world's hottest locations in terms of RF activity is the NFL itself.
"Most people don't realize the formidable number of wireless layers that are required just for the game on the field," Baltzell likes to point out. "Referees need their own channels for communications, as do the teams, which transmit signals from the bench right onto the field into the helmets of players on the defensive and offensive teams. There's only a finite amount of spectrum we all have to share, and when it comes right down to it, this is a championship football game first, and the rest of us are here as visitors and guests. Fifty-six channels of wireless for the halftime show would have been nice, but it simply wasn't feasible."
As in the past, wireless frequencies at Super Bowl XLIII were coordinated by James Stoffo. With Brendan O'Brien put in charge of the band's mix, Ed Greene drew upon O'Brien's palette of sound to manage the broadcast end of the equation, sending 5.1 audio from his console to air on NBC. John Cooper stepped-in at the FOH mix position, while Monty Carlo kept his hands on the faders in monitorworld for all of the band members except drummer Max Weinberg, who relied on separate, dedicated mixing talent of his own.
"In addition to the sheer number of RF frequencies being used in Tampa this year, there were other physical factors working against us," Baltzell relates, recalling some of the other wireless challenges the game faced. "Our antenna placement opportunities were anything but optimal; allowing us little when it came to the kind of spacing you'd need to enhance true diversity performance. Basically we were given one spot for our antenna farm and had to remain there. That's why RF performance had to be good. We needed strong transmission power coming from every corner of the stage and arriving safely at our receivers with every aspect of the original signal intact."
Based on the evidence, the halftime show was a smashing success. In the end, Baltzell cheerfully reported that "everybody was happy, including the band." Onstage, a five-piece horn section joined saxophonist Clarence Clemons on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." A gospel choir backed Springsteen, his wife Patti Scialfa, and guitarist Steven Van Zandt on "Working on a Dream." Currently touring in support of his new album of the same name (his 24th), Springsteen is enjoying a dose of invigorated popularity thanks in part to his appearance for President Barack Obama just before last month's inauguration, and winning a Golden Globe for his song from Mickey Rourke's film The Wrestler.