Watch Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Electrifying Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show

Celebrate what would have been the legendary rocker’s birthday with one of the all-time great mid-game performances.

By Andy Kahn Oct 20, 2022 10:35 am PDT

Rock ‘n’ roll legend Tom Petty was born on this date in 1950. The namesake leader of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers sadly passed away in October 2017, just shy of his 67th birthday.

Throughout his illustrious, multi-decade career, Petty was responsible for writing some of the most quintessential songs in rock history. His output was such that he included a new song – the instant classic “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – on a 1993 greatest hits album alongside 16 other originals. Another greatest hits album with the same number of tracks could easily be compiled of entirely different, but equally well-known and successful songs written by Petty.

An expert hook writer, melody maker and vivid lyricist, Petty’s songwriting exemplifies a transcendent nature found in the most compelling aspects of music. Petty’s songs speak to all types of situations and circumstances, describing relatable experiences and tapping into shared emotions.

With such an extensive catalog of truly incredible songs, selecting what constitutes Petty’s most essential work is essentially a fool’s errand. While some songwriters have a few top compositions, Petty’s original output is one “greatest hit” after another. Perhaps a window into what Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers would place at the top of their list of originals is the set they played for the NFL’s Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show in 2008.

Held on February 3, 2008, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Super Bowl XLII saw the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots to win the NFL championship (it was the Giants’ David Tyree “Helmet Catch” game). During halftime, Petty, guitarists Mike Campbell and Scott Thurston, keyboardist Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair and drummer Steve Ferrone, took over the field to perform for the capacity crowd of 71,101 people.

The band was allotted 12 minutes to entertain those in the stadium and the approximately 97.5 million people viewing around the world. Given the extensive audience in person and watching elsewhere, the performance was a global showcase of Petty’s signature songs.

Petty and his bandmates chose to rip through four of their well-known songs, each of which appeared on the 1993 Greatest Hits compilation. The group opened their halftime show with “American Girl” from their 1976 self-titled debut album. The showcase continued with “I Won’t Back Down,” which first appeared on Petty’s 1989 debut solo album, Full Moon Fever.

Next, “Free Fallin” turned the stadium into a massive sing-along of the fellow Full Moon Fever track. For the finale, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers dropped into another Full Moon Fever hit, “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”

Revisit Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ memorable Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show below:

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