Local Current Blog

Inside Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl halftime show: A Prince projection was always part of the plan

ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

After last night, many people can say that they watched Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance during the Super Bowl from the comfort of their own couch. Many fewer can say that they had an on-field experience. Nathan Bahr was one of those lucky few, but it was a privilege that he definitely worked for.

Bahr, a Minneapolis resident, was intrigued by the idea of being on “Crew 52,” and specifically hoped to actually be at the game. He applied to be a halftime show field team member, only to find out that all of the positions were full. Bahr decided to have his name put on a waitlist anyway. “I didn’t think I was going to get chosen at all because they said that they already had everybody,” he said.

Apparently, they didn’t have everybody, because Bahr received an email just two weeks ago telling him that he was hired. “When I signed up I didn’t know I was getting paid,” Bahr said today in an interview with The Current. As it turns out, Bahr and the halftime show field team members were paid ten dollars an hour. This included the actual show, as well as their seven other rehearsal periods, which spanned six hours at a time. Thankfully, even though his selection was short notice, Bahr was able to make the orientation, meetings and rehearsals fit around his day job at the Physicians Neck and Back Center in Edina.

As Bahr dove headfirst into preparation, one thing that stood out to him was the sense of camaraderie. Everyone was assigned a cart full of equipment for the show that needed to be moved into place for Timberlake’s performance. Some of the carts had up to 25 people on them, and because of this, they all ended up spending a lot of time together. The idea of working for what would be a massive performance is what really brought them together.

Lighting cart No. 9 crew. “We became really great friends after all of the time we spent together.” (photo courtesy Nathan Bahr)

“We saw the Super Bowl [halftime show] from beginning to end a number of times,” Bahr remembered. “Seeing it start from nothing, not even knowing what you were going to be doing, to actually being on the field and looking around and seeing the whole crowd during the halftime show…it’s almost indescribable.”

Bahr signed a non-disclosure agreement that prevented him telling anyone about the details of the show, which included a familiar Minnesotan icon. Despite this weekend’s debate over whether or not the show would feature a Prince hologram, and whether that controversy inspired Timberlake to change his plans, Bahr said that the sheet projection was planned from the beginning.

“I know online it was said that they originally were going to do a hologram, but that’s not true,” Bahr explains. “[The sheet] was the plan from the start.” The cart that Bahr was assigned to was positioned near this sheet, filled with two spotlights and a fog machine.

Bahr also discussed how the aerial shot of Minneapolis covered by the icon purple Prince symbol was not shot in actual time but was instead recorded prior to the game.

There was one last-minute change, said Bahr, involving the use of pyrotechnics. There were meant to be fireworks going off during Timberlake’s performance, but on the very day of the Super Bowl, NBC called off the effect. “They didn’t want any trace of smoke to be on the field at the beginning of the third quarter,” Bahr said. “There was a lot of pyrotechnic crew that had been there for weeks preparing for this moment that had nothing to do.”

Aside from that, Bahr said that everything ran smoothly, which was all the more impressive given that our local crew had a week less practice than is typical. “Other cities [that hosted the Super Bowl] would have more practices with the carts empty. They wouldn’t have all of the electronics and the equipment already in them. We started with everything in it, and hit the ground running.”

During the final rehearsal, Timberlake brought in hot chocolate and a s’mores bar for everyone as a thank you. Bahr said that Timberlake even pointed to the field crew and said, “Those are the people that do all the hard work.” Perhaps because of this, the crew members were treated like VIPs. They met at the Coliseum on the State Fairgrounds, where they were given Pepsi halftime show sweatshirts, and bused to the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center with a National Guard and police escort before going through a security checkpoint.

The crew even got the chance to brush shoulders with some of the many celebrity guests to the Twin Cities area. Bahr recalled seeing singer Jennifer Lopez, former major league baseball player Alex Rodriguez, retired Viking Alan Page and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals all before Timberlake’s performance.

When it came time for the actual game, Bahr described the feeling as an adrenaline rush. 40 hours of practice had led them to those 13 minutes of the halftime show. “Just to push a cart on the field sounds kind of silly, but being out there during the biggest event that Minnesota has had in decades is pretty amazing.”

It may come as a surprise that not everyone who volunteered or worked at the Super Bowl this year was local. Bahr said that there were people from around Minnesota and surrounding states, as well as all over the country. According to Bahr, there is a group of around 100 people who pay their own way to travel across the country and work at Super Bowl shows every year.

From start to finish, Bahr had nothing but glowing remarks to say of the experience, noting that he truly felt appreciated the entire time. “It’s a huge bucket list opportunity,” Bahr said, “but it’s almost like a hidden bucket list that not a lot of people know about. I think it was totally worth it.”

Nate Bahr poses for a quick photo during the setup for the 2018 Super Bowl Halftime Show at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (courtesy Nathan Bahr)