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Thursday, January 31, 2013
Madden Bowl party a soaring kickoff

By Kelley Carter

NEW ORLEANS -- If you're going to be known as the unofficial Super Bowl kickoff party -- and the host city is the Big Easy, home to one of the hottest rappers alive -- it goes without saying that you have to book him to perform.

Thankfully, the guys at the EA Madden Bowl got it right when they scored a kickoff concert headliner in Lil Wayne. He treated the thousands in attendance Thursday night to a show worth tweeting and hashtagging about.

His opener was Big Boi of the legendary hip-hop duo OutKast -- it almost doesn't get any better. Lil Wayne, who delighted in the crowd reaction, skateboarded on stage while running through his big hits.

It was an incredible opening party, and given that marquee names like Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Cee Lo are set to rock a few party houses in the coming days, that's saying a lot.

EA Madden Bowl

Why that title: For years the video game manufacturing company has hosted a tournament, which pits real-life players against one another playing as their virtual selves. Guests were treated to NFL stars Arian Foster, Drew Brees and Victor Cruz going up against rookies like Michigan's Denard Robinson.

Where: Bud Light Hotel in downtown New Orleans

Performers: Big Boi and Lil Wayne.

Celebrities spotted: Donovan McNabb, Brees, Eddie George, Holly Robinson Peete, Terrell Owens, Cruz, Foster and Jerry Rice.

Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: As usual with the Madden Bowl, it's the place everyone wants to be. Because there isn't much else going on the Thursday night of Super Bowl week -- and because they get top players and top talent -- everyone knows this is the place to be. Considering that, pretty much everyone on the tip sheet showed up.

Overheard: "I like numbers," Lil Wayne said to ESPN host Michael Smith of "Numbers Never* Lie." Guess we should expect to see him on the show soon?

Food factor: Passed-around food was indigenous to New Orleans -- fried gator bites were plentiful, along with seared steak bits, tons of bacon-wrapped nibbles and baby quiche with a Cajun twist.

New Orleans rating: Rajun Cajun! This was a spicy-hot way to set the party mood. Other parties: Bring it.