A history-making trio of pre-Super Bowl shows touched down at Crypto.com Arena for the third Bud Light Super Bowl Music Festival with Green Day and Miley Cyrus on Saturday night, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani co-headlining Friday with rising country star and Super Bowl LVI national anthem singer Mickey Guyton and Thursday night with Halsey, Machine Gun Kelly and special guests.
Saturday night was historic with Green Day’s first time ever playing in the building. Their stacked two-hour set of hits was their first show of 2022, which included some memorable covers of songs by The Clash, Guns ‘N Roses, Tiffany, KISS.
Green Day kicked the set off with “American Idiot”, blasting off with fireworks at the song’s end. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wore a black shirt with polka dots and red pants and had the guitar on his shoulders at one point during the energetic “Holiday” and a huge spotlight zoomed through the audience. A blazing red stage wash with white strobe lights flooded the space during the punk rock favorite “Know Your Enemy”, with standout guitars from Armstrong and bass player Mike Dirnt. Armstrong got the place hyped up with an “ayy-yo” call-and-response with the crowd and pulled up a fan on stage wearing a Green Day shirt (it was the first of a few sincere and amazing moments with fans throughout the night).
“Pollyanna” was next with the trio’s drummer Tré Cool highlighted on the new 2021 song. The adrenaline was high and continued with a cover of The Clash’s 1979 staple “I Fought The Law” with Dirnt singing much of the song while Armstrong jumped around in his red pants at the end of the throwback punk song. The band was drenched in blue and purple lighting for the big moment of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” while arms swayed throughout the stadium on the perfect rock ballad with an outstanding instrumental. It was a chilling, head-scratching rendition heightened by Armstrong’s candid mention, “”And to think Green Day has never played Staples Center…and turns out we never will” (since the venues naming rights switched to Crypto.com Arena).
1994 favorite “Longview” impressed, highlighted by the classic Dirnt bass notes and Armstrong invited another audience member to sing along, causing a frenzy from the crowd. It looked as if Armstrong was about to crowd surf with his guitar and then the band seamlessly kicked off “Welcome To Paradise”.
Rockabilly song “Hitchin’ A Ride” was next, with Armstrong stretching his arms wide mid-song to the fans from all sides of the stage, taking in the huge cheers and said, “Jesus Christ, you’re all a bunch of fuckers, but you’re my fuckers” and then went back to the end of the ditty. He dedicated “Disappearing Boy” to a fan named Serena who Armstrong said has been coming to their shows since she was 15, and there was a Guns ‘N Roses moment with the band covering “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Another cover followed, Green Day’s version of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” followed by KISS rager “Rock and Roll All Nite” with the entire arena singing along and clapping.
The guitar vamp on “Brain Stew” hit hard, followed by the rowdy “St. Jimmy” and then another massive early hit “When I Come Around” hit the airwaves, in all its perfect, classic glory.
The emotional impact was felt on rock ballad “21 Guns”, with the lights up and fans swaying during the powerful message. Red and yellow flashed on the jumbotron with lively pows during “Minority” and an awesome guitar section, as well as a harmonica moment from Armstrong that delivered a rousing response. Following the song, Armstrong said, “Let’s give it up for Miley fucking Cyrus. It’s great to see someone who is so young and a total badass”.
The band members were all introduced and then Billie Joe Armstrong asked if there was a fan who knew three chords and he selected a young woman by the name of Mackenzie who played the guitar and brought the house down. Armstrong’s inclusiveness with fans is truly addicting and a marvel to experience live.
Green Day drove the place crazy with the early favorite “Basket Case” with the whole place singing, and Armstrong jumped on a speaker mid-song and later crawled through Dirnt’s legs. “She” included fire blasting up from the stage floor and stunning, colorful artwork blinking on the screen.
“Wake Me Up Before September Ends” opened magically with beautiful guitar chords and later picked up with its iconic rock drive. Hands were up non-stop for “Still Breathing” and the band played “Jesus of Suburbia”. Billie Joe Armstrong was solo, center stage on acoustic guitar for his guitar-strumming masterpiece “Good Riddance”, while the fans sang “I hope you had the time of your life” in unison. Green Day intended to leave the stage and decided to play an “after hours” set of songs including “2000 Light Years Away”, “Burnout” and “At The Library” with Armstrong saying “We’re gonna have a hangover on Super Bowl Sunday”.
Miley Cyrus similarly dazzled with hit songs spanning her post-Hannah Montana teen years to the present as well as badass covers of the most iconic female artists from the 60s (Nancy Sinatra), 70s (Dolly Parton and Blondie), 80s (Madonna) and 90s (Sinead O’Connor). Cyrus’ soul is most certainly from another era or the future —or both. She offered something for everyone, thrilling covers, pop tunes, hip-hop, country, dance-pop and rock.
Cyrus’ show started off with black and white images of the pop star, and she entered the stage, quickly launching into her 2013 party anthem “We Can’t Stop” in a Debbie Harry blonde bang hairstyle, black oversized sunglasses, a red North Face jacket and black leather gloves. The full band included three background singers, trumpet, trombone player, three guitarists, two drummers, and a keyboardist, completely elevating Miley Cyrus’ sound to big band levels. Smoke and fireworks ended the song with Cyrus’ black midriff Gucci race car outfit revealed with her jacket open, adding to the swagger on “Plastic Hearts” as she was silhouetted on screen in hues of pink. A massive white banner with bold red text read “SELL OUT TO SELL OUT” as Cyrus blazed through Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, with incredible horns. She looked and sounded like a complete rockstar on this fiery cover.
Cyrus was singing “’round and round and away we go” on the country-meets-hip-hop tune “4×4”, with addicting horns once again as she leaned into the microphone and grooved to the beat, saying “I’m into a little bit of everything”. It set the tone for the next one “SMS (Bangerz)” with handcuffs and naughty dice on the screen as Cyrus shook her backside and proved she’s a sex symbol against aggressive, incredible strobe lights and perfect energy around this lively song. There was no end in sight to the swagger with “Do It!”. Next was an incredible vortex of color and neon beams connecting during the hip-hop cut “23”, closing out with smoke shooting from the floor, fire and fireworks for an insane visual that felt like a headlining Vegas act.
Miley Cyrus spoke with the crowd saying, “I’ve seen and tried a lot of different identities and you all stuck with me and I hope I get to do that over and over and over again for the rest of my life. Even though it scares the shit out of me so far, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. Crypto.com Arena went wild and she told fans that even while physically disconnected we were never alone and she thanked them for their loyalty.
2020 tune “Never Be Me” was announced by Cyrus as one she had never sung live before and her vocal was impressive on the pop ballad. She belted and scatted during the bluesy Nancy Sinatra cover “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” with growls and snarls and the guitars and background singers were simply amazing. Cyrus zoomed from the 60s to her irreverent 2008 pop/rock song “7 Things” while the crowd went nuts. She kept it in the same era for another early smash “See You Again”, a stellar showcase of her voice and stage presence, while the thump of drums took over the all-red stage during the pleasing dance-rocker.
Miley Cyrus went back in time again for one of her signature covers, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, sounding more like an anthem than ever in the arena setting. She told the audience that the show is a representation of being “anything and everything all at the same time” and that she wished she could time travel into the future but knows we never will. Keeping with the blues and soul, Cyrus proved yet again she is a genre-defying performer with a cowgirl hat and blazed on for the country-meets-gospel-inspired “High”, showcasing both the sweet and fierce with outstanding vocal moments, accompanied by the powerful back-ups. She continued with a song that sounded like the kind of song you’d hear at the end of an awards show, unreleased blues ballad “You”, a timeless piano song with Cyrus seated in her cowgirl hat.
The energy was back up for a completely unexpected and electrifying cover of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” with more wow factor coming from the gospel singers and the full band’s 200%. Miley Cyrus belted during the verses with her arms out and the fans were singing along and dancing left and right. New 2020 tune “Midnight Sky” found the pop star in pinks and purples while the band smashed, later mixing it in with Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”. It was a perfect one-two punch of thrilling covers book-ended by a newer Cyrus track.
Miley Cyrus took it back to the basics performing power ballad “The Climb”, with the screen shifting to a nostalgic black and white and the entire arena singing along with their hands up. Sparks streamed down from the ceiling by the song’s ending. The color was back in cobalts and purples for the always-impressive “Wrecking Ball” while the crowd continued their choir of voices, and then Miley blended it perfectly with Sinéad O’Connor/Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. It was one of the best of the night. Cyrus ended her whopper of a set with her party anthem “Party In The USA” while the whole place was singing along. Her cowgirl hat was off again and she flailed her blonde hair every which way while giving the crowd a chance to sing along. The background singers led a lively final a cappella chorus or two while Miley grabbed her own version of an American flag with a rainbow and her former alias on it that read “HANNAH MONTANA FOR PRESIDENT”.
Friday night offered another history-making pair, country superstar Blake Shelton and pop/rock icon Gwen Stefani, who shared the stage for the first time as co-headliners, and Gwen “opening” for Blake. Rising star and Super Bowl LVI national anthem singer Mickey Guyton offered support. Gwen joined Blake for their two beautiful duets “Nobody But You” and “Happy Anywhere”.
Mickey Guyton’s opening slot displayed some killer vocals and big, beautiful teased curls flowing down her shoulders to match the night’s excitement. She hit the stage in a black mini dress and thigh-high boots starting off with a powerful vocal on “Remember Her Name”. “We’re in concert…with people”, exclaimed Guyton following the song and she continued, soaring on the arena-ready country-rock ballad “Higher”. She introduced “Different” by mentioning that the song celebrates our differences, “We were born to fit in, not to fit out”, as she bounced through the mid-tempo party song, dancing on the stage and whipping her hair. The lovely ballad “Lay It On Me” was dedicated to Guyton’s husband with beautiful “oohs and whoas” and “Smoke”, a country ditty about a woman’s suspicions contrasted the previous song with its twangy vibe. Guyton talked about country singers needed a drinking song in their repertoire and mentioned to the crowd that there was already a “Tequila” and a “Tennessee Whiskey” but nobody had sung about “Rosé” —until her. She brought a Jason Mraz reggae/folk-pop element to the pleasing acoustic, guitar-driven tune. Sweeping guitar ballad “Better Than You Left Me” was possibly her best vocal of the night, earning a strong reaction from the crowd on Guyton’s big notes. She wrapped up with “All American”, her ode to unity, which felt like a spiritual moment as camera flashlights emerged in the crowd.
Gwen Stefani launched into a thrilling opening with a full band, trumpet, trombone and the inescapable “woo-hoos” of “Sweet Escape”, donning a yellow zebra print outfit including a matching yellow zebra jacket and boots with leggings. About a dozen enthusiastic dancers joined her in their multi-colored zebra costumes. Gwen kicked and danced and whipped her long blonde ponytail around while the band came to the front of the stage for “Sunday Morning”, joined by the entire crowd singing along to the reggae favorite.
“Alright motherfuckers, we are going to have complete positive energy tonight and we are in Los Angeles, California”, exclaimed Stefani. She continued with “Underneath It All” with the back-up dancers joining her. She kicked the air, rapping perfectly on the reggae song and reacting in an animated fashion while the trumpet was joined at the front of the stage for the lively instrumental. “I thought since I’m opening for Blake Shelton tonight I should be in costume”, said Stefani. “Obviously, he’s going after me, which is so hard”, she said jokingly.
The 80s-flavored No Doubt song “It’s My LIfe” was next, with the guitars smashing, Gwen working the stage and sounding like a total rockstar on the explosive pop/rock favorite. She continued with solo song “RIch Girl” as the dancers found their way back and the crowd joined in on the “na-na-nas”, adapted from Fiddler on the Roof. “Poor Blake,” said Stefani. “He has to go after me”.
Stefani showed she is still an awesome frontwoman on the No Doubt hit “Ex-Girlfriend” and continued with the infectious “Hella Good”, while the unstoppable dancers elevated the song and the band completely nailed the vamp with its pop/rock production. Stefani left the stage briefly for a costume change while the band played an instrumental of the Eve song she was featured on, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”, with audience cheers as the trumpet blasted and three male dancers busted moves in their orange zebra outfits.
Gwen Stefani returned in a light pink leopard print with her signature black and white race car checkers on leggings. Her vocal was as good as it was in the 90s on “Dont Speak”, which of course brought the house down and sounded like one big chorus. Stefani yodeled briefly for the 2006 pop song “Wind It Up” (which adapts a song from The Sound of Music), with the horns smashing and the dancers (now in black and white) taking part in a dance-off by the song’s end.
Another pair of solo Stefani songs were next, with her jacket off and midriff bared for the mid-tempo groove “Cool”, which included a solid vocal and incredible instrumentation. She then went into her 80s/new wave Alice in Wonderland-themed “What You Waiting For”, while the dancers pranced around her in unison.
No Doubt’s dancehall smash “Hey Baby” was next, an absolute highlight, especially with her two band members coming to the front of the stage for the iconic rap portion. The 90s band’s hit continued with the horn players and musicians at the front for the incredible, blasting “Spiderwebs” and the fans continued singing along for “I’m Just A Girl”. Stefani introduced this one by saying, “I wrote it when I was a lot younger and I think it’s more relevant than ever”.
Gwen Stefani of course capped a non-stop show with her biggest solo hit to date, “Hollaback Girl”. The dancers looked like they were having an absolute blast pounding their fits into the air as the band members and the entire arena sang “this shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S”.
Blake Shelton set the tone with glowing vertical beams and the very catchy “Neon Lights”. He addressed the crowd in his spirited way, “I came here to play country music and drink”. He continued with the flirtatious “Honey Bee”, smiling at fans, leaving center stage and having an absolute blast on the guitar. “What the hell everybody, it’s Super Bowl weekend”, said Shelton. “It’s a weird show. Who the hell had the idea of having me go on after Gwen Stefani? The rest of the show is gonna suck after what you’ve already seen”.
Shelton raised a glass before playing “Sure Be Cool If You Did” while the spotlight followed him on the stage. He impressed on the vocal, while guitarist Dave Powell and background singer Kymber Newton harmonized beautifully on the popular ballad. Shelton made another of many humorous moment during his set, mentioning something or other about the “LA Gazette saying tomorrow that Gwen Stefani stole the show”.
The twangy “Gonna” was next, with Shelton getting the crowd pumped up for the “hey-hey, alright” lyrics central to the lively chorus. Gwen entered the stage again in shimmering black sparkly pants and top joining her beau for the country-pop duet “Nobody But You”. They harmonized wonderfully center stage and Blake said “That’s Gwen Shelton right there!” He continued by saying, “If I do a show and Gwen comes out, we usually do it at the end, that’s a big deal, that’s Gwen Stefani. But Gwen wants to start drinking tequila and we have one more song before starts that”. The two continued with the banjo-led “Anywhere With You”, a perfect duet and the pair kissed and hugged at the end to a rapturous applause.
Shelton had yet another powerful vocal on the outlaw country-leaning “Hell Right”, and after Shelton said, “I guess if we’re all out here celebrating football and country music, we might as well do a drinking song”. He was of course talking about the seductive “Sangria”, harmonizing with Newton on one of the best of the night.
Shelton emphasized being in downtown Los Angeles playing country music and went into the lively southern rock song “Hillbilly Bone”, a complete honky-tonk party anthem. He continued with 2021 song “Come Back as a Country Boy”, with pounding drums and a lot of mystery surrounding it. The band was in tip-top shape for “Country Boy” especially in an arena setting.
“Some day I’ll look back and say I got to do a show with Gwen Stefani and Mickey Guyton during Super Bowl week”. After another massive applause as well as acknowledging the fans in the nosebleeds, Shelton performed a heartfelt version of Michael Buble cover “Home”, which was a highlight from the set, including incredible guitars and an inclusive feeling with the crowd singing along.
The stage was appropriately flooded in red for the George Jones cover “Ol’ Red” matching its outlaw country sound and then Shelton said “I actually have a song that’s even older than that one” and he played the first song he ever released, “Austin”. The timeless ballad was another standout, with the spotlight on Shelton center stage on guitar as his voice soared and even growled with emphasis.
The sound was massive and so were the guitars on the rousing “God’s Country” and the band kept the energy up for the swagger-filled “Boys ‘Round Here”, a true crowd pleaser with the catchy “chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit” lyric. Blake Shelton closed his show with beams of light filling the stage and a stained glass backdrop while he delivered an absolutely beautiful vocal on Dave Barnes cover “God Gave Me You”, feeling the song’s embrace of the entire band. Goosebumps were felt on the band’s song outro while Blake’s arms were wide open on the final “ohhh”, saying, “Thank ya’ll for coming out tonight, thank you Mickey Guyton, thank you Gwen Shelton”.
Thursday evening was another fiery pair of stars, with alternative pop artist Halsey and rap rocker Machine Gun Kelly co-headlining. Halsey joined MGK for his song “Forget Me Too” with Halsey and special guest Travis Barker. Trippie Redd also joined Kelly for “All I Know” and “Candy” and Willow made an appearance for brand new punk rock track “Emo Girl”. MGK also covered Paramore’s “Misery Business” and added his own flair to The Kid LAROI’s “Fuck You, Goodbye”, plus popular songs “My Ex’s Best Friend”, “Split A Pill” and “Papercuts” made the set list.
Halsey played her first live show in two years (and her first since giving birth in July 2021 to her son), performing a number of songs from her recent 2021 album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power including “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God”, “Easier Than Lying”, “Honey”, “You Asked For This”, “Darling” and others like “Bad At Love”, “Graveyard” and “Nightmare”.
Bud Light Super Bowl Music Festival continues in 2023 in the host cities with Super Bowl LVII coming to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona followed by 2024 when Super Bowl LVIII plays at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Lead photo by Beth Saravo.