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Interview:
No Lions, but Detroit will be well-represented in Super Bowl halftime show
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Lions, as their long-suffering fans well know, will not be playing in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, Feb. 2, in New Jersey.

But Detroit will still be well-represented -- at least in the halftime show.

A couple of Detroit-bred musicians will be part of the spectacle that's become one of the most highly anticipated parts of the big game each year. Lathrup Village native and Roeper School alumnus Phredley Brown has been playing with Bruno Mars since 2010 and serves as the guitarist and musical director of his Hooligans band, while Bloomfield Hills Lahser High School graduate mans the drum stool for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who are Mars' special guest for the show.

"It's almost too large to conceive, really," says Brown, 28, a trained multi-instrumentalist who co-wrote Mars' hit triple-platinum hit "Treasure." "I don't think I'll really understand the gravity of it until we're on stage and all the people are screaming and all the lights and all of that.

"We've been very fortunate to do some of the biggest stages and events in the world, it all comes so fast you don't have time to think about how big it is. You only have time to think about making sure you're prepared to do another performance -- which is kind of a blessing."

The Chili Peppers, Brown adds, "was somebody Bruno wanted to reach out to. We're all big fans of theirs. They're all a bunch of really cool guys, and it's come together really nicely."

Smith, meanwhile, says the invitation from Mars was unexpected but certainly welcome.

"The Super Bowl people asked (Mars) if he would like to have a special guest, and he said, 'Yeah, I'd like to have the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I'm a big fan' -- unbeknownst to us," says the drummer, who's been with the group since 1988. "He called us up and said, 'Would you like to come do a thing with us, have a jam?' We're like, 'Yeah, sure. Super Bowl? OK, sounds like fun,' and that's it.

"We've done some wacky gigs, but this one will be right up there. It's a big gig."

The Chili Peppers have also done some wacky things during their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career -- many of which famously involve a lack of attire. But Smith promises the National Football League, still reeling from Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" a decade ago, needn't worry.

"I'm sure they're familiar with some of our antics," says Smith, 52, "so maybe they'll add a few more seconds on their delay or something. And it's a little cold to be out there, scantily clad. We're playing nice, and they don't leave anything to chance. Everything is all rehearsed -- 'What are you gonna wear? What are you gonna do?' and all that kind of stuff."

The performers, of course, are prohibited from revealing too many details about the halftime show, which they rehearsed in Los Angeles and again at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., during the days leading up to the game. But it's clear that Mars plans to present some sort of medley during the 12-minute performance.

"You have to make sure you use the time wisely and get enough variation in your performance, so (a medley) seems to be the conventional way to go about it," says Brown. "You kind of squeeze as many songs in as you can without making it seem like an overkill or over-rushed thing."

Smith threw some reporters for a loop during Grammy Week in Los Angeles when he quipped that the Chili Peppers were going to play Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" for its feature -- and it was reported as fact in several outlets. "Some journalists are very, very gullible," he says with laugh. The group will be playing one of its own songs, which, of course, is being kept secret for the moment. And Smith will be playing a custom-made, double-size drum kit decked out with the logos of every NFL team and will be auctioned off after the Super Bowl through Feb. 7 to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"I might fly some Lions colors, you never know," Smith says, adding that the Lions logo is "prominently displayed, more than once (on the kit). I was joking the other day that that's probably the closest the Lions will ever get to the Super Bowl."

Both of the Detroit expatriates have busy schedules after the Super Bowl. Smith, who also played on recent albums by Jake Bugg and Jennifer Nettles, is getting ready to start writing for the next Chili Peppers album. Brown, meanwhile, will be busy on the road with Mars, who will be playing in Australia, New Zealand, southeast Asia and Japan before starting a North American tour in April that plays June 18 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Hooligans are scheduled to wrap up during September in Mexico, then turn their attention to Mars' next album.

"Maybe some day in the future, after we slow down, I'll have some time to really sit and just think about all the amazing things we've been able to do, like the Super Bowl," Brown says. "But now is just not that time."



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