Monday, July 26, 2010

Justin Bieber @ Arena

Bieber fever! Last night was crazy. This was the first time I've shot a bona fide pop idol, literally at the top of their fame... and it was madness. Outside the gates of arena, the Westgate shopping center was absolutely surging with piles and piles of small young girls and their mums, in massive lines, in the 100+ degree heat, waiting to get inside and catch some Bieber.

When the lines were at their largest and craziest, Bieber could be seen causing many a panic attack as he dashed around the outside of the arena on a Segway scooter. The screaming he caused just increased over the span of the evening. Before his set, there was actually a countdown clock hovering over the sides of the stage. Random screaming would break out through the course of the countdown. Anytime a camera or a spot light was pointed at the crowd, the girls would go mental. In fact, there were no less than three girls carried out by paramedics that night for different reasons. As the countdown ended, and the lights went down, the screaming reached is most insane... the official Arena decibel-o-meter indicated 118 decibels! That's the actual sonic equivalent of splitting a cantaloupe in two. Crikey!

It should also be said that Bieber's openers also garnered their own share of screaming from the fans. Jessica Jarrell and Sean Kingston both went down a storm... even if they were lip syncing. In their defense, lots of big labels don't like sending out their younger artists without some help from a backing track. It could be catastrophic to their career if they don't deliver in front of a sold-out Bieber-sized audience.

This show ended up being pretty interesting. I've said it before... I like artist who are entertainers... who give the crowd what they want... and put on a real show. Without actually jumping into the audience and going home with the girls, I think Justin Bieber did all he could possibly do from the stage. When the lights went down at the start of the show, lasers danced around the arena, fog shot up from all around the stage, and Bieber rose up from under the stage into a large metal sphere. Behind him, giant LED screens covering the entire rear wall... cat walks on the sides of the stage that jutted out into the wings of the elevated seating... and all the while wearing a headset microphone so he could dance his way from one side to the other. From a fan's point of view, it was awesome. From a photog's point of view it was a great canvas to work with. I don't think anyone in the arena left unhappy that night... except maybe the older guy I saw seated on the far side of row #1 in section CCC. That guy might have been more at home watching a bit of football.

In one bizarre surprise, Shaq popped up on stage to present Justin with a Teen Choice award in the form of a white surfboard. Interesting. Bieber feigned surprise, then asked Shaq to hold onto it for him till after the show. His Shaqness obliged. In a funny side note, as we photographers were being escorted to the exit on the side of the stage, Shaq and his posse nearly tackled one of our photogs. Shaq was on his way out to boogie on the side of the stage. This is a giant man. His boogie was enormous. (That's not innuendo)

From my point of view, a 6-foot tall photographer, the shooting circumstances were nearly ideal. Loads of light, an interesting and animated subject, and I was up close. My only possible gripe was how crowded the pit area was. It was very narrow, only one person could really fit at any section of the stage. But during Bieber's set there were two film crews shooting the performance and crowd's reactions. So there were 4 press photogs, 6 security guards, 2 large TV cameras, 1 guy with a light for the camera, one guy with a mic for crowd noise, and one guy running cable. It was a bit of a mess... I tend to enjoy running around the stage and shooting from different angles to keep the photos interesting. For Bieber it was a bit of a struggle to move. Plus, the stage was nearly 6-foot tall... so even for me, I felt a bit like a small child at Subway... not quite tall enough to see all the toppings. Sure, your mom can TELL you what you're missing... but it's not the same. I like to see how fresh the tomatoes are before I have them put on.

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