Swanky and chic, last night’s Super Bowl party was unlike any other.
[Updated] New Orleans has always known how to party well, but last night the Bud Light Hotel hosted a Super Bowl party with an entirely different price tag, a party that would shock even the most experienced New Orleans partygoer. On any other Saturday night, one might find this kind of extravagance in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, but the Super Bowl has brought the wealthy and the famous to the South, along with their idea of a party. Sequined burlesque dancers stood in the hotel's windows, polite waiters carried hors d’oeuvres of mini cheesecakes and pasta kabobs, and the night’s entertainment featured a lineup of talent that could’ve sold out the New Orleans Arena in a heartbeat– Stevie Wonder, Gary Clark Jr., and Janelle Monáe– yet was reserved for the invitation-only crowd.
The event took place in an enormous tent on Convention Center Boulevard, an extension of the Bud Light Hotel, that was split into two areas. The VIP section took up more than half of the space. Well-known actors, actresses, and athletes found their place among the other partygoers here, straight off of the “blue” Bud Light carpet. Even if you weren’t famous and important, you could be for all anyone else knew. It was a classy, clean-shaven, stiletto-heeled event that smelled of money. And yet, the atmosphere was distinctly New Orleans. There was a friendliness and warmth to the occasion, no hesitation to make conversation with complete strangers.
Janelle Monáe kicked off the evening’s entertainment with a heart-thumping, high-energy, theatrical experience that featured trousers, top hats, and a forceful, funk-driven, electric sound. A cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” was the opening number, a song that set the pace for the rest of her set. Gary Clark, Jr. picked up right where she left off with his smooth, bluesy style and gritty guitar tone that echoed through the entire hotel.
“Solo, Gary, solo!” Stevie Wonder said into his microphone as Clark made his second appearance of the night when he joined Wonder on stage mid-set. The crowd roared in reaction. Last night’s headlining set included many of Wonder’s brilliant, classic hits, and there were nods of recognition all-around. The band opened with “How Sweet It Is,” and Wonder, all smiles, led the crowd in a chant of, “How sweet it is/ to drink some Bud with you.” It was neither the first nor the last sing-a-long of the night, but perhaps the greatest moment of the evening came when the trifecta of Monáe, Clark, and Wonder shared the stage for “Superstition.” This wasn’t an arena show. It was a New Orleans Super Bowl party, where absolutely anything goes.
Updated February 4, 9:38 a.m.
Photos of Janelle Monae and Stevie Wonder were added to the story.