Two sexually explicit lyrics were excised from the rock legends' performance Sunday. The only song to avoid the editor was "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," a 41-year-old song about sexual frustration.
In "Start Me Up," the show's editors silenced one word, a reference to a woman's sexual sway over a dead man. The lyrics for "Rough Justice" included a synonym for rooster that the network also deemed worth cutting out.
ABC was the first network to impose a five-second tape delay on the Super Bowl, although it said the changes to the Stones' show were made by the NFL and its producers. The sensitivity no doubt reflects a lingering reaction to Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction two years ago.
The Stones probably didn't mind, either. It brought a little rock 'n' roll danger to the ultimate "safe" gig and — if they're lucky — it distracted attention from their mediocre show.
Jagger, at age 62, is still a force of nature, strutting and dancing across a stage designed as a replica of their famed wagging tongue logo. The band's performance felt ragged — they seemed just warming up during the opening "Start Me Up," and a three-song set affords no such luxury.
The Stones chose three tough rockers, including the best song from their well-received recent album and one of their most enduring hits.
"Here's one we could have done at Super Bowl I," Jagger wryly said in introducing "Satisfaction."
It was their best, most energetic effort, and ended with Jagger blowing a kiss to the audience. But unlike U2's performance four years ago at the Super Bowl, their set was not an example of a band at its peak rising to the majesty of the event.
Some in Detroit felt the city's rich musical history was snubbed when the Stones were selected, even if the Super Bowl had Motown-themed halftime shows twice in the past 25 years. This year's Motown tribute came before the game.
Stevie Wonder was the centerpiece, singing a medley of his hits with the help of John Legend, Joss Stone and India.Arie.
It was a typical monument to excess, with a stage more crowded than a train station at rush hour, and was marred by microphones that occasionally malfunctioned. Brightly clad dancers hoofed it incongruously when Wonder sang a portion of his angry ghetto tale "Livin' for the City," at one point pretending to fight each other.
Most importantly, the medley format did a disservice to the musicians. They rushed through the songs as if at a fast-food service line. With hours of meaningless pregame hoopla, couldn't they be given five minutes more to finish a few songs?
The National Anthem offered a particularly odd partnership — Aaron Neville and Dr. John (in a tribute to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans) with Detroit favorite Aretha Franklin. Neville sang half of the song in his feathery-soft voice, then was never heard from again when Franklin blew the dome's roof off.
By David Bauder