The name of the game is to get the most media impressions and ultimately, have folks talking about your event well after the actual football game, which in this case, is still days away.
Thursday night’s EA Madden Bowl, an event that used to be about bringing in the best NFL players to go head-to-head with one another playing animated versions of themselves and their contemporaries, has turned into the unofficial kickoff party of the Super Bowl week.
Sure, there was plenty of gamer action there — Arian Foster and Victor Cruz played against future NFL hopefuls and would-be first round draft picks like Denard Robinson.
All that said? The Madden Bowl could still be in great running for the top concert (and party crown) of the week. And it almost has nothing to do with football, although we did spot greats Eddie George and Jerry Rice. The real reason that capacity was at a max was the promise of a Lil Wayne concert.
The surprise opener was Big Boi of OutKast, who performed as if the other half of his dynamic duo was on stage with him. In the absence of Andre 3000 was Big Boi’s rapping hypeman Black Owned, and no shade to Dre, but the show was just as jamming as if he were actually there himself.
Big Boi rolled through a number of classic and big OutKast hits (“So Fresh, So Clean,” “Rosa Parks” and “ATLiens”), and performed a few new cuts — “Apple of my Eye” and “CPU” — and announced to the crowd that at midnight, he was turning 38 and couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate his birthday.
But the real musical nugget of the night, naturally, was Lil Wayne himself.
When he first made his entrance on stage — Wayne was backed by a band and a DJ — he pointed out a fresh Band-Aid on his cheek; the consequence of a skateboarding incident he shared with the crowd.
The New Orleans homeboy will actually perform two concerts in celebration of the big game before the week is up. His next show is Saturday night’s GQ party, but his Thursday night event was epic and quite frankly the perfect kickoff to a week of anticipated musical moments.
Read more: Billboard