The Hour I First Beliebed
In the 90 minutes before Justin Bieber appears, the show's creators work the audience as expertly as they will manipulate the hydraulics that lift the singer high into the air later in the evening. As I watch vendors selling cotton candy, I can't help thinking that giving bags of spun sugar to the 10,000 over-stimulated little girls surrounding me is a bit excessive.
A blond Australian teenager, Cody Simpson, comes onstage around 7 and performs "Ay Na Na." With its nonsensical chorus about love at first sight, it brings to mind Shaun Cassidy's "Da Doo Ron Ron." (Full disclosure: I'm 45.) Cody removes his jacket, and the screams rise like sirens. As my 12-year-old later remarks, "He's not very talented, but he's cute."
Next is Carly Rae Jepsen. If you lived through last summer without hearing "Call Me Maybe" at least five times a day, I am willing to bet you don't have a middle-school girl living in your home. Or perhaps you were on a cloistered retreat on the Isle of Skye.
But as "hawt" (description not mine) as Cody is or as unrelentlessly bubbly as is Ms. Jepsen (description mine), this audience has not gathered here for either one of them. It's for him. Him. The one whose face is emblazoned on their t-shirts and tote bags. The one whose initials are written in face paint on their cheeks. The one whose surname appears on a multitude of tweens' and teens' Twitter and Instagram feeds. "Mrs. Bieber," they call themselves. Or "mrsbieber_3921" or "belieber760." Many will tell you: They worship him.
At ten minutes before the show, a digital timer appears on an enormous screen above the stage. At 60-second intervals, the girls' screams grow louder. Nine minutes. Six. Four.
I love spectacle: parades, fireworks, and weddings awake joy and hope in my too-often hardened and distracted heart. So imagine my delight when Bieber makes his entrance, gliding down from above wearing steel-gray wings whose feathers look to be fashioned from cymbals, piano keys, and guitars. A laser show, fireworks, and confetti unfold high above the crowd.
Bieber sings his new songs. He leans down to his fans, allowing a few members of the throng to touch his hands or the hem of his shirt. The word BELIEVE flashes behind him. The Believe album and tour are about having faith in Bieber himself and, secondarily, about believing in his love for his fans. Throughout the night, Bieber thanks the audience multiple times for believing in him: "Where would I be, if you didn't believe?"
This winged angel, this misunderstood artist clad in white and gold, this larger-than-life figure whom they fantasize about—he needs them to believe. And, in return, he sees their beauty and actually loves them. "I just want to love you, and treat you right." When, near the end of the concert, he sings that he'll "always catch" them when they fall, he is standing in a small, fenced platform that has been lifted from the stage and has pushed him up high, closer to the back of the venue and to those sitting up high in the upper decks.