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NFL kickoff show falls short at Gillette

FOXBOROUGH -- Green Day played a long set when it headlined in front of 40,000-plus fans at Gillette Stadium last Saturday. Last night, the group did just one song and it was a safe choice: ''Boulevard of Broken Dreams," though it wasn't perhaps the most cheerful track to spice a pre-game show featuring the unveiling of another championship banner for the New England Patriots.

It also was curious to see Green Day wedged into a small, hideaway end-zone stage (Elton John was put on the same stage at last year's pre-game show but at least was allowed to do two songs). Which, of course, raises the question: What are the politics of these pre-game shows all about? Why did Santana get to perform two songs last night from a flashily lit, midfield stage where everyone could see the band -- with cheerleaders drumming up excitement all around them -- while Green Day was shunted into a lonely balcony in back of an end zone?

I certainly don't have the answers, but I can say that last night's pre-game show was another strangely dysfunctional event. Suffice it to say that unadvertised guest Ozzy Osbourne stole the show -- he performed his wild-and-woolly song ''Crazy Train" on a stage inside a giant-sized helmet that folded back to reveal the Ozzman in a Patriots jersey, mugging for the cameras and singing with a keen abandon (with his solo band, not with Black Sabbath).

But much of the rest of the show was just plain weird. For the first 30 minutes of the one-hour event, we didn't even hear acts that were in the stadium. Instead, we got two Rolling Stones songs (the obligatory ''Start Me Up" and surprise choice ''Rough Justice") beamed on video from a taped broadcast in Detroit. And we got remotes of rapper Kanye West and pop rockers Maroon 5 from a generic-looking, red-white-and-blue stage in Los Angeles.

Maroon 5 came off vapidly (doing just one song, ''Harder to Breathe"), while West did one tune, ''Heard 'Em Say." Yet it was disconcerting to hear his name booed loudly by Patriots fans who evidently didn't appreciate his nationally televised comment the other night on a Hurricane Katrina benefit that President Bush ''doesn't care about black people." The boos were thunderous and lasted for much of his number.

Carlos Santana & Co. acquitted themselves well with past hit ''Smooth" and new single ''I'm Feelin' You," with singer Michelle Branch taking a nice guest turn, as she was wheeled to midfield on a stage shaped like a football. But, again, why was Santana given headliner treatment? Green Day has had a much bigger year.

Pats owner Robert Kraft elicited the most cheers when he presided over the banner unveiling and praised ''the greatest fans that any sports team has ever had."

Nashville star Trisha Yearwood ended the hour by singing the national anthem but the performance was marred by fireworks shot off during the line ''and the rockets' red glare." It was a cheesy moment (couldn't they have waited until the end of the song?). It threw her off balance and she struggled to finish the song, but it was just another bizarre occurrence during a pre-game show that tried to do too much, but ended up offering too little.

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