“It was the greatest ever”: H.E.R. and Alicia Keys take Usher’s Super Bowl Halftime Show into the red with show-stopping performances on a signature Fender Strat and custom grand piano

H.E.R. and Alicia Keys
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It may have been Usher’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, but when H.E.R. brought her signature Fender Stratocaster to the stage to bust out a guitar solo, she definitely made an impression.

Rocking up and then rocking out about two thirds of the way through the performance, H.E.R applied her six-string chops to U Got It Bad, wielding a new version of her signature Strat in a sparkling red finish.

Taking to Instagram after the show, H.E.R. wrote: “Can’t spell Usher without H.E.R. Halftime show?!?!???? Whaaaaaat. And it was the greatest ever. Thank you for your talent, your love, and for sharing this moment with me. Wow I have no words.”

Fender’s Brian Thrasher, meanwhile, shared some photos of the custom Strat, and suggested that the call to create it came pretty late in the day.

There’s been some speculation as to whether H.E.R. was actually playing live, but if, as is likely, she was jamming to a backing track, she certainly wouldn’t be the first Super Bowl performer to do so.

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers were accused of miming during their guest spot at the 2014 Super Bowl, they admitted that the NFL had told them that only the vocals would be live. More recently, it was pointed out that, when Anderson .Paak performed on drums with Eminem at the 2022 Super Bowl half-time show, his kit wasn't mic'd-up.

It’s easy to understand why, too: the Super Bowl is a global spectacle with a huge audience, so it’s hardly surprising that the organisers want to make the Halftime Show as risk-free as possible.

There was also another notable red instrument on show last night - Alicia Keys’ eye-popping grand piano. It hasn’t been confirmed who designed and manufactured this, but understated it most certainly wasn’t.

Alicia Keys Super Bowl

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.