[artist id="975"]Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band[/artist] are one of the most notoriously ripping live rock bands on the planet, legendary for their marathon performances, mind-meld timing and brotherly vibe. But, apparently, even a band with a telepathic musical bond plays to tape when they take the stage at the Super Bowl for the halftime show.
Just days after word emerged that Jennifer Hudson lip-synched her performance of the national anthem before Super Bowl XLIII, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band also played to a pre-recorded tape.
While the paper said that Springsteen’s vocals were live, it revealed that the E Street Band was playing along to a recording during the group’s rousing four-song mid-game set.
“The Super Bowl performances are all on tape,” Hank Neuberger, a Grammy-winning producer who is supervisor of the broadcast audio for the Grammy Awards telecast, told the paper. Neuberger explained that no matter how good a singer is, backing tapes are a necessary evil of most live, nationally televised musical performances.
“There is no way you can set up a full band in five minutes with microphones, get all the settings right, and expect to get quality sound,” Neuberger said. “The Super Bowl has been doing that for years with virtually all the bands.”
After the Super Bowl, the pregame show’s producer, Rickey Minor, confirmed that both Hudson and singer [artist id="501090"]Faith Hill[/artist], who performed “America the Beautiful,” used backing tracks. Hudson’s publicist explained on Tuesday that the singer’s microphone was on, but that she was singing “live to a backing track” at the request of the producers.
According to the Tribune, the Super Bowl has routinely required singers to pre-tape their performances before the broadcast, giving them the option of singing live but encouraging them to use a backing track in case of technical issues. The drama of Hudson’s soaring performance of the anthem was heightened by the fact that it was her first live singing engagement since the tragic murders of her mother, brother and nephew in October. And even though message boards and Web sites blew up with shocked comments when it was revealed that the accomplished, Oscar-winning singer had sung to a track, Neuberger said it is no judgment on Hudson’s or the E Street Band’s skills.
“It’s not fraudulent; it’s the opposite of fraud,” Neuberger said. “It’s not like Milli Vanilli. … This was a case where [artist id="2481017"]Jennifer Hudson[/artist] is the singer, and it was a case of the artist giving the audience her best under adverse conditions.” Neuberger compared the arrangement to a similar one employed at the presidential inauguration last month, when the accomplished classical quartet that included violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma played to a recorded track because of the inability to properly keep their instruments in tune in the cold weather.
“There were too many variables keeping the instruments in tune while playing outside in cold weather,” he said. “You can’t control the environment, so the smart decision is to record the performance and play along with it. With Jennifer Hudson, if she goes out there, they set up the microphones, the music starts and something goes wrong — she can’t hear herself, the microphone doesn’t work — she’s in trouble. The performance is going to suffer. You only have a certain amount of time. It’s too big of an event to risk something going wrong.”