As always, the halftime view looked different depending on your seat:
Kevin Draper, watching on TV: The Weeknd promised a different take on the halftime performance, and he delivered. With enforced social distancing and complicated logistics, he performed from the stands, not in the headliner’s normal spot on the field, on a stage that was not surrounded by hundreds of dancing fans the way it usually is.
He opened with “Starboy” on a stage in front of a neon mock city skyline set, accompanied by dozens in a choir, before the set parted and he entered a brightly lit gold hallway surrounded by masked look-alikes. He performed the entirety of “Starboy” before making his way onto the field to sing his mega-hit “Blinding Lights,” accompanied once again by the hundreds of masked look-alikes — all of them wearing sparkly red jackets and black pants and carefully socially distanced for much of the song — as a barrage of fireworks went off.
Ben Hoffman, inside Raymond James Stadium: The most striking thing about the performance inside the stadium was how few moving pieces there were. A typical halftime show involves the entire field’s being taken over by stages and fans. The Weeknd simply walked out onto a prebuilt stage in the end zone (only feet away from the stadium’s iconic pirate ship) and began singing. With the performance so confined — and with so much of the crowd on the opposite side of the stadium — most of it didn’t feel much different than if it had been played on a video screen. The crowd swayed around a little, but nothing like in past years where fans of the main performers were brought out specifically for the show. The upside, of course, is the relative lack of cleanup. Even with some dancers — dressed up like the Weeknd’s heavily-bandaged character — taking the field toward the end of the show, the field stayed pristine and was ready to go almost as soon as the performance ended.