Train at the Justin Herman Plaza, by Jon Bauer
Train at Justin Herman Plaza (photo: Jon Bauer)

An English diva and a San Francisco stalwart band helped the NFL kick off its season Thursday afternoon from Justin Herman Plaza in The City. Several thousand turned out for the free event featuring performances from Ellie Goulding and Train, and appearances by Bay Area football legends Jerry Rice, Marcus Allen, Jim Plunkett and Dwight Clark.

Portions of both performances were featured on national television during a pre-game show leading up to the game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. The event was held at the site of the soon-to-be Super Bowl City Fan Village for Super Bowl 50, being held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The NFL hung a Super Bowl 50 banner on the tower of the Ferry Building to mark the occasion.

Thursday’s concert drew three types of fans: football enthusiasts, Ellie Goulding followers (no Train shirts were obvious until singer Patrick Monahan started throwing some into the crowd) and the random passersby/tourists who wandered in by accident. From a concert perspective, it was a tough sell. Each type of fan was thoroughly confused by the others, and the performances had so many starts and stops that they lacked any kind of flow. But then again, this event was not really about the music, was it? The NFL was the star of the show, kicking off six months of Super Bowl hype.

As for the performances, both acts played about six songs. Monahan spent the entirety of one song in the crowd, taking selfies with people’s phones. The rest of his bandmates and two back-up singers shared the background for the majority of the first four songs. Then the band took a five-minute break while two emcees faked excitement as they tried to pump up the crowd for the first of two live TV shots. For the national crowd, Train performed “Save Me San Francisco,” though the performance must not have been live after all, because a second take was requested immediately after the first.

Goulding, meanwhile, was solid if a little detached from the sporting atmosphere of the event. What she lacked in not mentioning the NFL or football in her between-song banter, she made up with very glittery pants and dance routines. Even though Goulding was the main event, the crowd, wilting in the heat, thinned a bit, with some of the more spike-bedazzled Raiders fans allowing the Goulding preteen fans closer to the action.

Photos by Jon Bauer

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