Pharrell Williams opened the evening with a career-spanning performance that saw the singer and producer intersperse many of his biggest hits, along with player introductions. After being introduced by All-Stars Chris Paul and LeBron James, Williams opened with his solo hit “Frontin’” before seguing into “Hot in Herre,” as he was joined onstage by the song’s performer Nelly. Continuing that theme, Busta Rhymes and Diddy also came out to perform a basketball-themed remix of their hit "Pass The Courvoisier, Part II,” which they re-dubbed "Pass The Rock This Way."
After the Eastern Conference All-Stars were introduced (with the starters coming out to the immortal beat for “Grindin’” by Clipse), Williams’ set moved onto his most recent smash, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Williams introduced his co-producer in The Neptunes, Chad Hugo, as he launched into the N.E.R.D. classic “Rockstar,” before making a right-turn into the slinkier strains of “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg, who also came out for the festivities. The Western Conference All-Stars got their introductions next, which was followed by the second of Williams' two 2013 blockbuster singles, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Williams capped-off his performance by donning his ridiculous over-sized hat from the Grammys (this time in red!) and inviting his guests back onstage to run through his ebullient, Oscar-nominated song from "Despicable Me 2," “Happy.”
The 20-minute showcase was brilliant in the way that it overtly tied the NBA’s biggest stars to one of hip-hop’s best producers. As for Williams' performance, the guests and mixture of old material and new were vivid reminders of his unique creative legacy and enduring stature as one of the MVPs in hip-hop.
The halftime performance centered more on the rich musical traditions of the host city, but it was no less impressive in its scope. One of New Orleans’ favorite sons, Trombone Shorty, opened the performance with his band Orleans Avenue, throwing down a rousing rendition of his song “For True.” The group then ceded the spotlight to Big Easy piano legend Dr. John, whose raspy take on the Mardi Gras standard “Iko Iko” went down like the musical equivalent of gumbo. Fresh off his duties performing the national anthem, guitarist and singer Gary Clark Jr. next joined the band for his cut “Bright Lights.” Janelle Monae brought serious energy to her performance of “Electric Lady,” the Outkast-indebted title song off of her most recent album, before the halftime show ended with a spirited rendition of Earth, Wind and Fire’s timeless funk classic “Shining Star.”
The beauty of both performances was that the many artists involved were all allowed their own moment to shine, yet also worked together to compliment one another. In that respect, they were a lot like the NBA All-Star Game itself.
Click the video above for the full performance by Pharrell Williams and friends.