27 October 2014

PERTH #3: Who I Saw . . .

My friends in Nashville all went to see Justin Timberlake. And I know that if I had been in town, I totally would have gone with them. Alas: I was in Singapore, on the other side of the world. 

I was crushed.

So in March of this year, when I heard that Justin was coming to Australia, I decided this was my chance. Australia would be the closest that he would get to Singapore. So I decided that I would buy a ticket to one of his shows in Perth, the closest venue. (Although I’m kicking myself for not going to a Melbourne show and doing the Offspring tour). 

I bought the tickets in a rush. I knew I wanted to buy high-end tickets, but I had no idea what they were selling. Everything was named weirdly. So I bought the Tunnel Vision package. 

That was 8 months ago. Fast forward to now . . . I hop on a plane to Perth with my ticket to Timberlake. I remember nothing from my purchase of this ticket in March.

I’m already completely blown away by where I was staying, just outside of Perth. So I had no idea what to expect from the show. But to be on the safe side, on the night of the concert, I took a cab to the city and arrived around 2pm. I had received 2 emails about my purchase, both saying that ID’s of the purchaser would be checked and this was serious business, blah, blah, blah. Okay, sure. It was only me going and me who purchased the ticket, so I didn’t think much of it.

I washed down a wonderful plate of fish and chips with a couple of beers, and then made my way down the street to Perth Arena. And there was not a soul in sight. It was so strange. The t-shirt booth was being set up outside and a couple of ladies were trying to hang a Justin Timberlake sign, but there was no fanfare. Shouldn’t there be fanfare? I remembered going to New Kids on The Block concerts as a kid, and it felt like mayhem. Even more recently going to see Drake in Nashville with Kelly, there were throngs of people outside, waiting around. But here? No one. 

I tried to get online twice to see if there was any hubbub about the concert, and I was only given the above wifi options. I found this quite humorous.

I went around the corner and found a line forming with about 30 people in it. So I sat down on the sidewalk and joined them. Young kids, early 20’s. We talked about music we liked and what concerts we’d seen. One guy had recently seen Kanye. Apparently both Kanye and Kim were just in Perth two weeks earlier. Another guy told me he had seen every Australian location tour stop of Lady Gaga. I was impressed! About 30 minutes into our conversation, we started talking about entrance times. So I pulled out my ticket and looked to see what it said, and Lady Gaga screamed, “You’re early entrance!!! You belong over there!”

He pointed me in the direction of a line with about 15 people in it. So I left my new friends and stood quietly at the back of the new line. Everyone was older in this line, they were all standing, and less friendly. We were given wristbands that said Tunnel Vision and JT. One was green, one was yellow. Then we are given goodie bags as we signed off on our names on a list that had been printed out and placed on a clipboard being held by a very tall and bulky man. Everything was uber organized, and they had tour officials at every step of the way. A well-oiled machine, if I do say so myself. 

About 30 minutes after receiving our goodie bags, they took us into the arena lobby in a single file line. We had been given numbers when we got our goodie bags, so we had to remain in that order. We stayed in line while everyone took turns getting drinks or going to the restroom. Then they walked us into a very empty stadium and told us to find our place. We didn’t have to stay in our number order, so I wound up just to the right of front row center. For the entire show. The absolute best seats I’ve ever had for a concert, ever!

Then the powers that be let all of the other people, from the other line—where my friends were and where I recently sat so pleasantly—inside and suddenly there was no space to breathe or move. I had to hold my place like a boss because they crowded into the arena floor like crazy, pushing and squeezing. That’s when I decided that perhaps I’m more of a seat-holder-type concert goer.

I looked down at my watch. It was 8pm. A dj had been onstage for the past hour, but now I was ready for JT. It was taking all of my patience to listen to the group of girls next to me . . . 

Suddenly the lights went black, and a lit silhouette appeared at the back of the stage.

Yay! Yay! Yay! It was go-time!

There’s really not much more I can say . . . Justin is an amazing performer, and put on an exquisite show. He played for a solid 2-2.5 hours. And the show literally did not stop or slow down, start to finish.

It was also remarkably hot . . . I was wishing about halfway through the concert that I hadn’t had the two beers beforehand, but two waters instead. My head was pounding, just like it was before my heatstroke in Viet Nam. One of the youngsters behind me was starting to lean on me, as if I was her personal wall, rubbing against me and making our two sweats extra gross. She was also quasi-loud. There were 4 older ladies almost directly behind me and two of them almost passed out, so we had to move so that the security guys could get them to safety (air conditioning and water). And then I proceeded to watch, as the night went on, another 10 to 15 girls get picked up by security as they went down. It was hot, and people were dropping like flies.

One fun thing about being up close and personal was that I got to see things that I normally don’t get to see. For starters, Justin sweats a lot. He was dripping the entire time. His clothes were easily drenched by the second or third song. A lot of that had to do with the lights on the stage, but I’d say a good 80-90% of his sweat came from steady movement and interaction with the crowd. I also got to see that his pants seemed a bit worn. And by worn, I mean they looked like the kind of pants you find on the floor and throw on with house shoes to go and check the mail. They weren’t dirty necessarily, but they definitely were not clean. (Neither were my clothes, so I am not complaining.) I actually really appreciated this. Because to me, it seems like what the focus was on was the art: the putting on of a good show. Not the putting on of a fancy costume or heavily pressed suit. It’s the “hey-we’re-all-just-jamming-in-someone’s-backyard” style of dress. So kudos for that, Mr. Timberlake. It was also endearing to see the gestures and nonverbal signs that he would exchange with his band members and dancers. The show wasn’t about Justin. The show was about the performance as a whole, with each of his 30 plus ensemble pulling their own weight and putting in 150%. It was super impressive.

As someone who builds things, I am always going to be just as interested in the set or staging as I am in the actual performance. The thing that I like about pop stars is that they spend time and effort on their staging. When I saw Drake in Nashville, his lighting designer blew the roof off the joint. I almost didn’t focus on Drake at all, as I was constantly taking pictures of the lights. With Justin, it was no different. He did a portion of the show on a thick plexiglass platform that seemingly floated across the audience. It was awesome! It was actually on a track, but I couldn’t tell if the track was on the floor or ceiling . . . It must have been on the ceiling as there was no interruption in the audience (like a blocked walkway or something). 

This was the one thing that drove me crazy about where I was during the concert. 

I couldn’t see the stage in full. I couldn’t see the floating platform for all that it was because I was right at the stage. I couldn’t see the dancers’ formations, the band set-up, the lights as they were displayed on the entire stage, or how Justin used the space. That drove me nuts. I remember when I saw Madonna in 2001, it was really hard for me to figure out what to focus on. I could see the whole stage then, but it was such an overwhelming performance because the staging was so interactive. So I couldn’t decide if I should try and track her for the full performance or try to take in the whole stage all at once. If I focused on one side of the stage or the projection, then I lost out almost completely on something else that was going on. With Justin’s show, I pretty much watched only him. But only because I really couldn’t see anything else. Oh well. 

I’ll end it with this: being close was good—I guess—because one of his female dancers winked at me, I high-fived his tall back-up singer, and Justin looked at me twice (it made me nervous, so I looked away almost immediately). Different perspectives are important, right?

My only regret was not somehow telling him that I had flown myself there from Singapore for my 40th birthday, and that I have some pretty tight connections to Tennessee. I feel he would’ve appreciated those things . . . 

Just for kicks . . . Here's the set list in video form from YouTube. 

And here's two videos that I have reconnected with since the concert . . . Enjoy!

Keep bringin’ sexy back, folks!

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