Photos by Steve Jennings, John Parra and Christopher Polk/GettyImages. By Mariecar Mendoza. As expected, Pharrell Williams brought out plenty of special guests for his Friday night Super Bowl party at Pier 70: Bay Area fans. Just two days before kick-off, the Grammy Award-winning singer-rapper-producer and recent recipient of the NAACP’s Image Award for Outstanding Male Artist brought about a dozen fans on stage for two songs during his nearly two-hour set at the Pepsi-sponsored Super Bowl concert at the massive San Francisco venue.
Hand-picking each group from the crowd for back-to-back N*E*R*D hits — guys for “Lapdance” and the ladies for “She Wants To Move” — Williams kept fans, including NFL greats Deion Sanders and 49er legend Jerry Rice, engaged from start to finish. “Hey, San Francisco!” the singer greeted the throng of music lovers as he went into 2014’s clapper, “Come Get It Bae,” wearing a baseball cap, long white coat over a simple T-shirt and jeans ensemble, accented with bubble gum pink Adidas.
More famed special guests showed up, too. Childhood friend and N*E*R*D bandmate Shae Haley helped Williams reach back into his cache of hip-hop tunes from the early aughts, and T.I. entered stage left for “Blurred Lines,” the infamous song the two collaborated on with Robin Thicke. Two short intermissions featuring his dancers known as The Baes (fitting to have his Baes in the Bay, no?) allowed Williams to rest his voice, which was starting to give out mid-set. He claimed his throat was suffering from the show’s smoke machine, but the complaint sounded familiar.
And fans were more than eager to oblige so Williams could perform favorites like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (Snopp Dogg didn’t show up; probably because he was too busy hosting his own Super Bowl party at San Francisco’s W Hotel), “Beautiful” and “Happy.” “Maybe if I just concentrate vocally, maybe I might just get lucky,” he quipped, heading straight into “Get Lucky,” his chart-topping collaboration with Daft Punk.
The sing-along hits were sandwiched between two performances of “Freedom.” The 2015 single’s music video, parts of which were projected on a jumbo screen behind Williams, is nominated for a Grammy this year. While much of the set was done with Williams pointing the mic toward the sea of singing fans, the high-energy entertainer continued to dance, jump atop platforms on each side of the stage to acknowledge far-off fans and reach out to touch concertgoers at the foot of the stage.
“We are so very grateful. I, personally, just want to say thank you so much for being so patient,” he said, again apologizing for his voice. Williams shutdown the stage just before midnight, in time for DJ Khaled to hit the decks on the opposite side of the historic shipyard-turned-three-floor-nightclub. Friday night’s festivities started six hours earlier with a reception sponsored by Pepsi to celebrate Kola House, a new bar, lounge and experiential space opening in New York this spring. Guests enjoyed music spun by famed producer Swizz Beatz as San Francisco artists Jeremy Fish and Sam Flores worked on an interactive art installation depicting Super Bowl City.