Aguilera, Busta Rhymes, Lynyrd Skynyrd Among Super Bowl Warmup Acts

Q-Tip, 98 Degrees, Tina Turner, Enrique Iglesias also in Atlanta for football's biggest week.

While the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans prepare to battle for
football nirvana Sunday (Jan. 30) in Atlanta, fans will be partying there
this week with Christina Aguilera, Busta Rhymes, Elton John and other
performers.

From Wednesday through Saturday, the city’s clubs and theaters will host
a dizzying array of shows for the Super Bowl XXXIV crowds.

“Atlanta’s just grown tremendously over the last couple years, and with
the kinds of music people have embraced, it has grown more eclectic,” said
Adam Cohen, who books shows for the local Tabernacle theater. “This
particular week, people are kind of taking more of a national stance.”

More than 100,000 people are expected to converge on the city this week
for the football championship at the Georgia Dome.

The National Football League itself is getting behind some of the music.
The league is sponsoring shows at the Georgia World Congress Center by
pop group 98 Degrees on Thursday and hip-hop acts Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip,
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott and Mobb Deep on Friday. The performances will
promote the NFL’s weekly syndicated television concert series, “Under the
Helmet.”

Country acts Martina McBride and Lonestar are booked for the 4,700-seat
Fox Theatre on Thursday, and Southern-rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd will play
there Friday. Piano-playing pop-rocker Elton John is scheduled to play a
private party at the Fox on Saturday.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd was the perfect example of playing to a core audience that
… is in a Georgia frame of mind,” Fox General Manager Ed Neiss said.
The Florida band, which flies a Confederate flag onstage, is famous for
the rock anthem “Free Bird” (RealAudio
excerpt of live version
) and for its triple-guitar lineup.

The Tabernacle will host ’70s disco group KC and the Sunshine Band —
another Florida act — on Wednesday. It’s also where blues guitarist
Kenny Wayne Shepherd will play on Friday and where a party for the players
will be held after the game Sunday. The venue is across the street from
the Georgia Dome.

Local rock station WNNX-FM is sponsoring the 99X Bud Bowl Block Party in
the city’s Buckhead section Friday and Saturday. Fuel, who scored a hit
in 1998 with “Shimmer” (RealAudio
excerpt
), will perform Friday, while power-pop band Cheap Trick
will play Saturday, according to the radio station’s promotion director,
Ernie Kapanke.

“Atlanta’s usually a pretty good host for things like this,” Kapanke said.

The game itself will include performances by Tina Turner and Travis Tritt
before kickoff and by Aguilera and singers Enrique Iglesias, Phil Collins
and Toni Braxton at halftime. Aguilera also will open the TLC show Friday
at Philips Arena.

The halftime show is usually an elaborately produced spectacle. In years
past it has featured pop superstar Michael Jackson, country singer Reba
McEntire and early rocker Chubby Checker.

“We always have to do a cross-section,” NFL spokesperson Chris Widmaier
said. “When 160 million fans say they’re a fan of your sport, you have
a pretty wide demo there.”

Not all those fans like all the entertainment, though. “You have like
five, six groups go on in 10 minutes — what does that mean?” Public
Enemy frontman Chuck D said. “I like Tina Turner’s legs, but am I gonna
get some actual entertainment value out of it? I don’t think so.”

R&B singer Usher will host a LaFace Records party Thursday at the Biltmore
Hotel, which is expected to draw such guests as Sean “Puffy” Combs, ‘N
Sync, producer Jermaine Dupri and other musical dignitaries.

Why all the hoopla and pageantry over a sports event? It’s all about money
and time, Neiss said.

The Super Bowl is the only championship event in American sports that
takes one game to decide. So the game gets built up into a spectacle, as
people try to figure out what to do with themselves before the kickoff
Sunday, he said.

“It’s tough to get a Super Bowl ticket unless you’re in the corporate
world. With that in mind, the Super Bowl is a perfect format for [a
corporate trip],” Neiss said. “It’s a singular day, and you can work a
whole weekend around it.”

(Senior Writer Chris Nelson contributed to this report.)