I got kicked out of the Justin Bieber concert on Saturday, guys. In fairness, it wasn't really my fault, and the whole thing was a lot more prosaic than it sounds — there was a mix-up with my press pass, which basically meant I was allowed to be there for three songs and then would be forced to leave. But in those three songs, I learned pretty much everything I needed to know. Let's take a journey:
1. The amount of Justin Bieber merch that exists in this world is staggering. Socks! Earrings! Watches! Water bottles! Backpacks! AND SO MUCH MORE.
2. The dads of the Bay Area are a truly selfless lot. At one point I saw a guy actually quadruple-fisting beers as he headed back to his seats. I mean, whatever it takes, right?
3. A Justin Bieber concert would probably be the single worst place in the known universe to be on hallucinogenic drugs. I'm talking confetti, multiple lasers, spotlights sweeping the room, billowing smoke that a security guard told me was "the most he'd ever seen" at Oracle, fireworks shooting twenty feet high, approximately one million multicolored LED lights blinking and twinkling from practically every surface, and all manner of handheld flashlights, glowsticks, and the like. In his review of the show, Peter Hartlaub of the Chron reveals that the lighting was done by the same guy who does Phish's (which makes total sense), and aptly describes the experience as being inside a pinball machine. I hereby describe it as being inside hell.
4. And all that's not even including what was happening on the actual stage — which, suffice it to say, was a lot. The main set piece was a massive, vaguely steampunk-esque pod thingy; during the first song, it was joined by a fleet of be-space-suited dancers, though from there, it only got bigger and weirder: Hartlaub reports "parkour and karate"; for my part, I think my favorites were the massive projections of fish and the pair of backup singers dressed as what I'm assuming were angels. This kid truly never met a mixed metaphor he didn't like.
4. Everything you've heard about Bieber's transition from baby-faced pop singer to bona-fide crossover star is absolutely true. He's in a tough spot, to be sure: Most of his Beliebers came during the earlier, bubblegummier days — and, by the looks of it on Saturday, they're still primarily the ones paying the bills, or at least their parents are. But Bieber's a talented musician with plainly huge ambitions and a well-established love of R&B, and growing as a performer while still appeasing that group can't be easy. He managed it pretty well on Saturday, though, following up an early a capella medley of ballads with one of his newer, slicker, more sophisticated tracks, and generally balancing out all the treacle with edgier arrangements and a smooth-bordering-on-sexy stage show (i.e., probably more gyrations than the six-year-olds of the Bay Area were prepared for).
5. BTW here is how Justin Bieber makes an entrance:
6. Bieber's definitely a big Michael Jackson fan: The wings were straight MJ, of course, and he even did a little moonwalk at one point. All the music played between sets was Jackson, too, which was awesome until I overheard a woman have to explain to her daughter who Michael Jackson was.
7. Have you heard that people tend to have very strongly positive feelings toward Justin Bieber? It's almost like a virus — a fever, even. To wit: At one point before his set, a bunch of medics rushed backstage for some reason, which caused a large swath of the people seated close enough to see this to immediately start weeping en masse for fear that Justin was hurt. At another, Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, came out into the crowd and was mobbed so fully that a security guard had to be dispatched to help him. HIS MANAGER.
8. Security is tight! Here is a reenactment of what happened when I tried to get in after my three songs were up:
Me: Hey, I'm Ellen Cushing; am I on the list?
Elderly Security Guard Who Gives Exactly Zero Fucks: No.
Me: Oh, snap. Is there anyone I can talk to, like a press liaison or anything?
Me: Are you sure?
[At which point I start to cry out of sheer frustration. Apparently these people are pretty seasoned when it comes to young women trying to weasel their way in via crying]
ESGWGEZF: No ma'am, I'm sorry.
Me: Uhh okay I guess i'll just stand here and take notes on the crowd?
(five minutes later)
ESGWGEZF: Ma'am, the cameras are picking you up and my managers are asking questions. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
— fin —-