Nuno Bettencourt Explains What He Didn’t Like About Rihanna’s Super Bowl Performance: ’They Should Have Shown the Band More’

While visiting Lipps Service, hosted by Scott Lipps, Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt looked back on how he got the gig with Rihanna’s backing band, as well as the Super Bowl performance with the singer which took place earlier this year. Asked about how he got the chance to work with Rihanna’s live band back in 2009, Nuno said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Listen, I’ve been super blessed. I think sometimes you make a choice in life where you’re in your band… And we had and are still having great success. But there’s always been this kind of, I don’t know, hustle in me and always wanting for more and being open.”

RIHANNA & NUNO BETTENCOURT Extreme RockStar 101 at LISBOA Diamonds World Tour 2013 HD

As Nuno recalls, it was a guy named Tony Bruno, a musical director for Rihanna and also a guitar player himself, who offered him the possibility to play for the legendary pop singer. He continued:

“So when you get a call even from Tony Bruno out of New York, who’s the MD [Musical Director] for Rihanna and he says, ‘Hey, you’re probably gonna say no…’ And then you make these decisions at 45 that, like, ‘Why not? Let me go down and see what this is about.’ And then next thing you know, I’m doing like five tours with Rihanna. [Laughs]

And all these years later, Nuno is still with Rihanna and has also gotten the chance to play the Super Bowl as her backing musician. Looking back at the past decade or so, he said:

“But those things lead… Everything leads to something. And in some moments, like, obviously, the Rihanna stuff has been amazing. And the Superbowl, of course, it’s a bucket list moment. At 56 to even think you could even play at the Super Bowl, and it’s Rihanna’s show. But just to be a part of it…”

Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show Rihanna Full Version

But according to Nuno, he wasn’t super happy about some of the aspects of the show. For instance, during the televised segment, there was almost no representation of the musicians in the backing band. He said:

“And I think you might have seen me on television for 1.5 milliseconds. Or maybe I’m actually being generous. You know that when you do a performance, some of the great ones I’ve done, usually people will send you a video of watching you on TV. When you get a steal of yourself, it’s never a good sign. [Laughs] That they had to pause it. ‘Was that him? I saw a red guitar. We’ll take it. It’s blurred, but it was him.'”

“But you’re right, they should have shown the band more. Because the band notoriously has always been a part of Super Bowl performances. And we played through the whole thing and the band is super talented. And it would have been nice.”

Nonetheless, the show was, after all, about Rihanna. People watching the performance from the comfort of their home, and even at the event, were almost entirely focused on her. Nuno concluded:

“But you know what? This is Rihanna’s moment, not the band’s moment. And the network shows what they chose, you know, the her and all the dancing.

In another interview published just a dozen days ago or so, Nuno reflected on the issue as well, pretty much saying the same thing:

“Did you see that 1.5 milliseconds of me on screen? Did you get that? It was so pathetic the amount of love that the band got, but it’s Rihanna’s Super Bowl; it’s not ours or the band or me.”

BLABBERMOUTH.NET -- Nuno Bettencourt Performs "Rise" Solo Live For First Time

But, of course, he was still proud to have been on the stage there, calling it a “bucket-list moment.” Nuno added:

“It’s amazing just to be a part of it, just to do the Super Bowl. What a bucket-list moment. Just being a part of it and the production and everything that happened. And I’m so blessed and so honored that she asked me back to do it. But the hell with the NFL for not giving any love to the band.”

And earlier this year, Nuno also reflected on one of the biggest misconceptions about playing for a mainstream pop star. A huge portion of guitar-oriented rock and metal fans out there might think that it’s easy to pull off. Reflecting on his early days as Rihanna’s guitar player, Nuno said:

“I’m thinking, ‘How hard could that be? She’s a pop artist. I was fucking wrong. It was difficult because – if you really listen to Rihanna stuff, which you should, it goes from reggae to a club track, to trap.

Nuno Bettencourt California King Bed -Rihanna

“The hats you have to wear to really make it sound [good]… the musicians that you play with, they’re no fucking joke. These are musicians’ musicians… the greatest players in the world.”

“First I said, ‘Why would you need me? There’s no guitar.’ ‘That’s why we want you to come in.’ ‘So I get to be myself?’ ‘Yes, [bring out] your rig, rock out to great songs like ‘Umbrella’, make them heavy…’ It was amazing. I got to do so much with these tracks.”

“And when I got in that room when I was playing with these guys, is they’re not playing it like [it is on] the album. They’re like, ‘Let’s make this thing. Let’s stretch a bit.’ Great keyboard players, great bass player. Everybody was amazing on that tour – background singers and Rihanna.”

Nuno Bettencourt live in Paris (with Rihanna)_20/10/11_part 4

“You know, a lot of people ask, ‘Can she sing?’ Hell yes. She never mimed once live. Productions these days have a lot more auto-tune. And they used it on her, [but she] didn’t need it. It’s more of a sound, like, ‘Oh, let’s tune this girl up. Because this girl can sing for sure.’ I was really impressed.”

Photos: SebastyneNet (Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt at South Park Festival in Tampere, Finland, June 2015 photo 02), oouinouin (Rihanna a bercy)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.