Irish mega-rockers U2 will be the centerpiece of what is expected to be the most patriotic-themed Super Bowl halftime show ever.

The game, Super Bowl XXXVI, will be played on Feb. 3 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans and will also include a pre-game performance of the National Anthem from some big-name artists yet to be named, officials said. 

A pre-pre-game performance by several well-known musicians about four hours before game-time may not necessarily be televised. 

"For the halftime show we were looking for a band that would help capture and lift the spirit of America and the world," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said yesterday. "With U2 we found what we were looking for. 

"There will be patriotic themes woven throughout the entire game and pre-game carried through to half-time." 

McCarthy said the NFL is anticipating a worldwide audience of more than 800 million for the game, which will be broadcast on Fox. 

Last year about 130 million Americans tuned in to watch all or part of the game. 

The Super Bowl this season has been pushed back to Feb. 3, 2002 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks forced the NFL to suspend its season for one week. 

Over the course of the last 20 years, U2 has released 14 albums and won 10 Grammy Awards. They were recently chosen as band of the year by both Spin magazine and Rolling Stone

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