Super Bowl 2023 highs and lows: Rihanna won the day, the stadium grass was a disgrace

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In the week leading up to Super Bowl 57, metro Phoenix traffic grew dense, hotels and Airbnbs were booked up, sports betting was on its way to breaking records and celebrities and other VIPs started arriving for the festivities.

The Arizona Republic’s Dining and Entertainment teams were on the ground to document all the action surrounding Arizona’s fourth Super Bowl (and the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament at TPC Scottsdale, which coincided with the NFL championship game).

Our music critic enjoyed the most intense acoustic show he’s ever seen at an invite-only Dave Grohl concert. Our entertainment reporter spoke with pop star Kevin Jonas, who accurately predicted the Kansas Chiefs’ win. Our dining reporter sampled from and spoke with the local vendors who were tapped to serve food for events all across town.

Here are the Super Bowl 2023 highs and lows we witnessed.

How it all happened:Super Bowl 2023 comes to a dramatic end in Arizona after Rihanna show, celeb appearances

High: Devin Booker likes Phoenix better quiet

It was Super Bowl weekend when Devin Booker officially became an Arizonan. The Phoenix Suns star took to Twitter Saturday night to bemoan the influx of visitors for Super Bowl 2023 and the Phoenix Open. “Can all y’all get out my city,” Booker tweeted, “I like it better quiet.” Same, Book, same.

– Becky Bartkowski

Low: The grass at State Farm Stadium

At first, there were a few slips and slides on the field at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Eventually there were enough spills that the condition of the turf became a story. And then it became one of the biggest stories of the night. Not a good look for Arizona.

— Bill Goodykoontz

High: Dave Grohl shredding vocal cords for veterans

Dave Grohl kicks off Super Bowl weekend with an exclusive acoustic performance for veterans and local hospitality personnel at Crown Royal's pre-game party experience at Crescent Ballroom on Feb. 10, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Dave Grohl kicks off Super Bowl weekend with an exclusive acoustic performance for veterans and local hospitality personnel at Crown Royal's pre-game party experience at Crescent Ballroom on Feb. 10, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters partnered with Crowd Royal on an impossibly intimate, invitation-only solo show to celebrate the hospitality and military communities at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix early Friday evening, outrocking any expectations one might have of unplugged concerts. Grohl was shredding vocal cords at full intensity backed only by the power-strumming of his own guitar while joking with the audience and thriving on the interplay such an intimate setting allows.

– Ed Masley

Low: Super Bowl traffic in metro Phoenix

As much fun as Super Bowl 2023 and all related events in the last week have been, I can't say I'm going to miss driving below the speed limit on the freeway at all hours of the day. PSA to all future visitors to our lovely state: The left lane is the fast lane.

— Endia Fontanez 

High: Historic first for Jimmy Eat World and Gin Blossoms

How is it that Jimmy Eat World and Gin Blossoms had never shared a bill before they teamed up at the Super Bowl Experience, a free outdoor concert at Margaret T. Hance Park that drew a huge, enthusiastic crowd for both bands on Feb. 9 in downtown Phoenix?

To say that both bands rose to the occasion would be something of an understatement. I’ll assume I’m not the only person who was hoping we were headed for some sort of local hero summit with Gin Blossoms crashing the stage for “The Middle.” Oh well. There’s always the next time the Super Bowl brings them together.

– Ed Masley

Ultimate guide:Everything to know about the Super Bowl Experience at Hance Park in Phoenix

Low: Finding your way to the State Farm Stadium tailgate parties

I feel sorry for the people at the Super Bowl who looked like they were there to help you get to where you had to go when, as it turns out, they had no idea.

I say this based on anecdotal evidence attained while trying desperately to find the Black Keys at the TikTok Tailgate Party. I asked people holding signs with words like “tailgate” and all I got were blank stares and bewildered repetitions of the words I used with question marks attached. “TikTok?” “Black Keys?” “Help?”

– Ed Masley

High: Chris Stapleton’s national anthem

Chris Stapleton performs the national anthem before Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz
Chris Stapleton performs the national anthem before Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz

This was a deeply soulful anthem, the grit in the country star’s vocals at times giving me the Otis Redding feels as the camera settled on the tears that happened to be streaming down Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni's face, a testament to Stapleton’s ability to get inside a song and make you feel exactly what it means to him. I wasn’t crying! Coach was crying! Stapleton’s anthem was one for the ages.

– Ed Masley

Super Bowl 2023 entertainment:Here's everyone performing at State Farm Stadium

High: Rihanna’s halftime show at the #FentyBowl

We’d all been wondering who Rihanna might bring out to join her in the spotlight when she took the world’s biggest stage for her return to live performances after five years of putting the focus on other pursuits, from fashion and fragrance to family, giving birth to her first child in May.

Surprise! She got along just fine without the much-anticipated cameos. And speaking of surprises, RiRi also used the Super Bowl to share a first look at her baby bump while spending most of her performance on a futuristic floating platform.

– Ed Masley

Low: What happened to Megan Fox and MGK over Super Bowl weekend?

One moment we're speculating about whether Machine Gun Kelly actually got electrocuted while performing at the WM Phoenix Open's Birds Nest in Scottsdale on Friday. By Sunday morning, Fox made headlines that speculated about infidelity in the relationship with her bizarre Instagram activity.

According to reports, she shared an Instagram post that included a clip of a burning letter with the Beyoncé lyrics "You can taste the dishonesty / it’s all over your breath" in the caption. Then she reportedly removed all her photos with MGK and unfollowed everyone except Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet and Eminem. As of Monday, her Instagram is still deactivated.

We’ll be looking out for a section in their Wikipedia pages on what happened between them in Arizona.

— KiMi Robinson

High: Paramore headlines the Super Bowl Music Fest

Football and music came together in the best way on Thursday when Hayley Williams took the stage wearing a sparkly football helmet and dancing to the title track off Paramore's latest album, "This Is Why," which was released that night. The band performed an exciting set of new and old songs, ending the show by bringing a superfan named Jay onstage to perform the 2007 hit "Misery Business."

— Endia Fontanez 

More:Here's the full star-studded lineup for Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest 2023 in Phoenix

Low: Rupert Murdoch sitting with Elon Musk

Like all networks that broadcast the Super Bowl, Fox showed various celebrities watching the game — Paul McCartney, Adele, Jay-Z, Paul Rudd and others.

Also getting screen time was Rupert Murdoch, the head of Fox Corp. and News Corp., sitting with Elon Musk. It was like the misinformation all-star team.

— Bill Goodykoontz

High: All the local food trucks at Super Bowl Experience at Hance Park

Local and visiting football fans converged on downtown Phoenix's Margaret T. Hance Park for a four-day celebration from Feb. 9-12. The highlight? For me, it was the food.

With such a diverse lineup of local vendors, it is hard to say which one item was the best. From warm comfort food at Macology and Mr. Momo to the delicious vegan and gluten-free options from Trash Panda Vegan and Wok This Way, there was truly no wrong dining choice at Hance Park.

I think out-of-town visitors were especially thankful for Paletas Betty's ice pops and the lineup of local beers from the bar to offer a cool down during the sunny outdoor event.

— Endia Fontanez

High: Celebrities flocked to the Valley

Some of the biggest names in music, Hollywood, sports and internet culture routed their private jets to metro Phoenix to attend a plethora of Super Bowl parties across town. Cher showed up in Scottsdale to see Drake, Zedd and Offset perform. Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy Carter — sans Beyoncé, seemingly — Paul McCartney, Adele and Cardi B were also in town.

It’s fun knowing that some of the biggest pop culture icons of our day are probably staying just down the road. But it was also nice to see that the agencies and organizations behind a lot of these events thought to invite some of the Valley’s tastemakers and influencers to join in these festivities and rub elbows with some VIPs.

— KiMi Robinson 

Low: Long lines for Super Bowl Experience at Phoenix Convention Center

Don't get me wrong, the Super Bowl Experience at the Phoenix Convention Center downtown was a ton of fun, from celebrity sightings to foot-long churro hot dogs. But after waiting in line for two hours just to try kicking a field goal, my feet hurt from standing and I honestly wasn't in the mood to kick a football anymore. The Experience redeemed itself when I got to take a photo next to a signed and worn Joe Burrow jersey, though.

— Endia Fontanez 

High: Santa got his wish

At Old Town ESPN Main Street Tailgate, Santa, dressed in a green top for the Eagles and red pants for the Chiefs, told The Arizona Republic, “I’m rooting for both teams. I just want a high-scoring game.” Looks like the teams heard his wish and delivered a late (an early?) Christmas present on Super Bowl Sunday.

Bahar Anooshahr 

High: Phoenix cookie bakers and their football-themed treats

Some metro Phoenix cookie bakers promised Super Bowl-themed cookies prior to the game. On Super Bowl Sunday, it was a joy to see Instagram sprinkled with their colorful and beautiful products. Phoenix has some talented bakers.

Bahar Anooshahr 

Low: Absolutely nowhere to park

Having moved here from the East Coast where one has to fight for parking space — and I mean driving head first into a parallel-parking spot to stop the other guy —  I love the ease of parking in Phoenix. Super Bowl weekend was different, though. There was seemingly nary a parking space anywhere, even at the gym, which led to some angry yogis.

Bahar Anooshahr 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Super Bowl 2023 highs and lows, from Rihanna to the slippery turf