The Super Bowl Host Committee began making good on delivering big-time fun Friday as their producers of free concerts on Nicollet Mall, pop hitmakers Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis, promised a heavily Minnesota-themed lineup — which to them could include NFL outcast Janet Jackson, and definitely will include a Prince tribute.
“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase and be proud of the great music from our hometown,” Lewis said.
Jam and Lewis were to be the stars of the news conference marking the start of the 100-day countdown to the game, but airplane trouble kept the mega-producers from making it into town.
Instead, organizers revealed some elements to the “Bold North” Super Bowl Live winter festival that will be on Nicollet Mall between 6th and 12th streets.
Every night, blue, purple and green lights will dance in the dark evening skies of Nicollet Mall, evoking the Aurora Borealis. A walk-in football-shaped snow globe will be constructed along with ice sculptures encasing NFL jerseys; nearby booths and activities will be sponsored by still-unnamed corporate partners.
While organizers expect the free event to draw 1 million visitors for the food and fun, the main attraction will be free concerts every day on the “Verizon Up Stage at Ice Mountain” on the corner of 8th Street S. and Nicollet Mall.
Talking by phone Friday from Los Angeles, Harris said: “We can do many things, but we can’t fly a plane.” The two homegrown music moguls would not name names yet for the series, scheduled for 10 nights, Jan. 26 to Feb. 4. But they did confirm the biggest name in Minneapolis music will be a part of the mix.
Jan. 29 (a Monday night) will serve as a full-fledged Prince tribute. Other purply moments will likely be sprinkled throughout the week.
“The loss of Prince makes this even more important to us,” Lewis said. “It made us more aware of our mortality, and pushed us to do things we want to do before our time here is up.”
Mortality also came up when the duo was asked if a reunion by the heyday lineup of their old band, the Time, might also be in the mix for the Super Bowl Live series, which is not affiliated with the game’s halftime show. Jam and Lewis reunited with Time bandleader Morris Day at the Grammys in February to pay tribute to Prince, but do not tour or record with Day any longer.
“Anything that’s possible, we want it to happen that week, and that would fall into that category,” Harris said of a Time reunion. “It’s one of those things that, when you think about mortality, you wonder how much longer will we have to do it?”
Reuniting with artist Janet Jackson for a Super Bowl-related event would be significant for football and music fans. The two producers worked with Jackson on the hits that turned her into a superstar solo artist.
With Justin Timberlake as the official half-time performer at the game, the question becomes: Whither Jackson? She and Timberlake had finished the halftime show in 2004 when he pulled down part of her costume, revealing a bare breast to a worldwide audience.
The excuse-explanation for the incident introduced the expression “wardrobe malfunction” into the global lexicon.
Jam and Lewis said Jackson has not been invited to take part in the halftime show this year, but an invitation has definitely been extended by them to be a part of the Super Bowl Live festivities.
“In our mind, she’s also a part of Minnesota music history,” said Harris, referencing the fact that Jackson recorded many of her biggest hits in Minneapolis and Edina while working with the pair in the ’80s and ’90s. Among the songs Harris and Lewis produced and co-wrote with Jackson are “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “Control” and “Miss You Much.”
The two Minneapolis natives said they also have other truly homegrown acts from Minnesota in mind to be a part of the concerts, which will happen on an outdoor stage in the northwest corner of 8th Street and Nicollet Mall near the former Dayton’s/Macy’s department store. The concerts are open to the public and will end by 10 p.m., which is the downtown curfew for live music.
Harris mentioned Soul Asylum, the Suburbs and Replacements as a part of a Minneapolis rock history they would like to represent. Without naming names, they said they are also fans of more up-and-coming Minnesota acts, and they would like to work with “some of the other acts we’ve worked with in the past from there.”
That could include Mint Condition, Prince’s old bandmates in the Revolution or Alexander O’Neal. Among the non-Minnesotan acts that have come under the Jam and Lewis hitmaking brand are Usher, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Yolanda Adams, Toni Braxton and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Last year’s Super Bowl Live concert series in Houston was mostly made up of Texas acts, including Solange, ZZ Top, Gary Clark Jr., Leon Bridges, Hayes Carll, Blue October, Lecrae and ex-Houstonian Lizzo (who can also be considered a Minnesota act).
The pair’s history and personal M.O. may not be the only thing dictating a mostly Minnesotan lineup: Local acts might also be the only ones brave enough to perform outside in Minneapolis in the dead of winter.
“I think the locals are actually going to enjoy it,” Lewis said. “It could almost be like ice-fishing, something that’s very Minnesotan.”
The host committee also revealed Friday that its going to be the first tenant in the ground floor redevelopment of the former Macy’s store, currently undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation.
The 10-day Super Bowl Live production is the biggest and most expensive duty of the host committee. Of the $50 million-plus the committee is privately raising, Super Bowl Live will use approximately 20 percent of that.
Super Bowl Live starts at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, and ends at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, hours before the football game.