Debbie and I secretly bought a pair of tickets when they went on sale and decided we’d surprise Amanda on the day of the concert. When I explained why I was home early from work, Amanda’s reaction almost warranted a visit from the local ambulance corps. That would have resulted in our selling the tickets to the sold out show to some lucky last-minute kid whose reaction would undoubtedly also have required the services of the paramedics, and so on… creating a nightmarish domino-effect of tween death thanks to Justin Bieber. I can see the headlines now: Justin Bieber killed!
I’ve always enjoyed walking around and people watching in the venue before a concert. This time was no different, except that I was with Amanda, who A) has an unparalleled passion for shopping, and B) was clearly in cahoots with the merchandising crew. We fought our way to the front of the line, which was abuzz with overexcited tweens and parents willingly forking over too much money for t-shirts, stickers, posters and anything else on which you could print a teen idol’s likeness.
Being a strict parent, I set a spending limit for Amanda. After telling the tattooed gent with the aggressive facial hair that she wanted the “cute” t-shirt ($35), she used coercion tactics on par with those utilized by Scotland Yard, to persuade me to buy her tattoos ($10, purchased solely so the guy helping us wouldn’t think I was judging him), a useless wand that flashes a variety of colors ($12, and slightly more useless today), and a few other costly trinkets. Confident that she had successfully extracted every last nickel from my very tight pocket before the show even began, we found our seats.
Inside the arena, I and a bunch of other poor saps who lost rock, paper, scissors matches with their spouses sat playing with our collective iPhones while our girls discussed important topics like which Justin Bieber song was the best and whether or not he’d play it tonight (he would). They also each argued that he’d definitely notice them because they were his biggest fans ever, and he would know (he wouldn’t, and he wouldn’t).
As the lights dimmed, a countdown timer starting at two minutes appeared on the screens. The crowd screamed louder with every passing second. By the time the clock reached one minute, my earplugs were doing as much good as if I had chosen to leave them back home in the box instead. At 30 seconds, I wondered how the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora could still be listed as the loudest sound ever heard by humans. It’s a miracle nobody was bleeding to death from his or her ears (headline: Justin Bieber killed!). At 10 seconds, the entire arena began counting down together, all the way to zero, when in an explosive climax, appearing right there on the screen for all to see was… a three-minute commercial for Xbox 360. It was about as big a letdown as a seventh-night Hanukkah gift.
As an aside, if you’ve never been treated to the sound of thousands of pre-teen girls screaming together in an enclosed space, here’s a handy reader service tip: you’d probably be more comfortable removing a splinter with a belt sander.
During the opening notes of the first song, Amanda pulled my shoulder down to proclaim, “This is my favorite Justin Bieber song!” She would issue the same declaration to me during the opening notes of every song performed that night.
Immediately following an on-screen close-up of Bieber in which he smiled and flicked his head and famous hairdo almost imperceptibly, causing a frenzy of screaming and tears one would only expect to see in newsreel footage of the Beatles invading America, I decided it was time for my eardrums to take a break. On my way out, I noticed that all the dads in attendance had the pale blue light of a smart phone illuminating their faces as they checked email, played games and updated Facebook statuses – a totally appropriate sign of the times for a concert starring a kid who was discovered on YouTube.
The loudest screams of the night happened after I returned, when Bieber floated over the crowd in a steel-framed heart and declared, “I think I just saw my special girl.” The teen to whom he was referring was brought to the stage in a heap of tears, serenaded and presented with a bouquet of roses. She will have an amazing story to tell for the next two or three years, when her feelings about the experience magically transform from unmitigated elation to severe embarrassment about having been there in the first place.
In fairness, Bieber is a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to singing and dancing, he played drums, guitar and piano. And we were treated to a four-minute video montage of him singing at various stages of childhood. In the interest of political correctness I'll only say that he was as good then as he is now.
Even after drawing the short straw and occupying a seat at this concert, I’ve managed to draw a few conclusions:
- It doesn't take much to make 10,000 tween girls scream like Daniel Stern in the movie Home Alone,
- After this concert I could probably realize significant benefits from a cochlear implant,
- Despite my reluctance to attend the concert at first, I would happily do it again thanks to the joy I witnessed through my daughter’s eyes, and
- If you were a young girl in the right target demographic, Justin Bieber did in fact kill.