Justin Timberlake: a priceless experience
The last gig I went to was Foo Fighters in 2011. I vowed it would be the last big concert I would ever go to. While I loved the Fooeys and was blown away with how awesome they were (as was Jack Black and Tenacious D), I really didn’t enjoy the actual concert experience per se. It was held at the Adelaide Oval (before the upgrade) and it was uncomfortable. This was mainly because I was standing; I couldn’t really see over the heads of big, burly blokes; and so many people in the space meant that it was squishy and uncomfortable. I’m not a fan of big crowds even in favourable circumstances; I find them annoying at best, anxiety-inducing at worst. The gig was out-of-doors, and it was hot. I was paranoid about the toilet queue, so I didn’t drink anything in order to completely avoid the inconvenience of having to pee. Getting home afterwards was a drama. I vowed that this was the last big concert I would go to. Ever.
So, last March, when Daughter asked me to go with her to see Justin Timberlake, I have to admit I hesitated. But she really, really, really wanted to go, so I caved. After all, I reasoned, the gig was a couple of days after my birthday and we don’t go out together – just the two of us – often. And the concert was at the (very civilised) Adelaide Entertainment Centre (AEC), so I could sit down, rather than stand all night in a squishiness with annoying, inconsiderate people dancing in my personal space, treading on my toes, and elbowing me in the ribs as they busted a move. So I agreed. We bought our tickets in March, and I had a whole six months to get used to the idea of going to another concert. Which I had specifically vowed not to do again. Ever.
Fast forward to Tuesday 23 September, 2014, and Daughter hatched her cunning plan to win me over to the gig attendance side again. She had arranged everything. I finished work early, and she drove us to the AEC. We parked on site (for $12), and strolled up to The Joiners Arms for dinner, where she had booked a table for us. We had a leisurely, delicious meal (I had battered garfish and she had a chicken schnitzel) used their loo, then strolled back to the AEC. We only had to line up for around 20 civilised minutes before the front doors opened and we made our way to our seats, stopping for a photo opportunity with one of The Tennessee Kids on the way in. We took our seats and watched the venue slowly fill, enjoying the music of DJ Freestyle Steve and then the Common Kings and then back to DJ Freestyle Steve.
During both of DJ Freestyle Steve’s sets he mentioned frequently that he would be choosing “16 people from the audience to party with him in the VIP area”. Of course, on hearing that, Daughter did everything she could to attract his attention. This I considered to be a lost cause, not least because we were seated at the most distant location from DJ Steve that we could possibly be: diagonally opposite and way up high. And this venue is huge. We were grains of sand on a beach. So she did what any self-respecting hopeful JT fan would do: she got inventive. She grabbed my phone (which had a strobe flashlight) and switched on her phone flashlight, and started waving them around in time to the music. I told her that she was probably wasting her time, but she persisted anyway. Tenacious, she is.
She persisted, because DJ Steve said “I can see you on the left! I can see you on the right! I see you up the back!”. But when DJ Steve started on his quest to find “16 people from the audience to party with him in the VIP area”, I said that there was no way he would really have seen us from his DJ box on the stage and there was no way he would venture over in our direction. When he ventured over in our general direction, I said there was no way he would come anywhere near our seat. When he was standing right next to our seats, I said there was no way we would be chosen. When we chose us, I said “NO WAY!”
Daughter said: “See Mum? And you thought it would never happen. You just needed to have a little faith!”
So Daughter and I, and 12 other randomly chosen – and very excited and special-feeling people – were shepherded into the VIP area by DJ Freestyle Steve, who gave us strict instructions about our (possible) interactions with JT (WHAT THE???!!!) – don’t push yourself onto him; don’t grab at him; if we wants a selfie with you, let him etc. etc. Again, for emphasis: WHAT THE???!!! We were then informed that, in the second part of the concert, JT would come down from the main stage via a staircase and perform in the area right next to where we were standing. Literally one metre away, if that. Talk about exciting! This was an experience that money couldn’t buy, made all the more special because we didn’t buy it. Talk about amazing! Talk about sheer, blind luck! Squee!
The VIP area was located directly in front of the stage, around 150 metres away (don’t take my word on the distance – I am hopeless at working out that sort of stuff. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that it seemed 150 metres away.). It sported a bar, and raised platforms and security personnel**. And while it was filled to the brim with people, it wasn’t crowded. We parked ourselves quite next to a bar on the right, quite near a raised platform. It was fortuitous placement, as it turned out, because JT sang and danced right there on that platform, then the bar. Right in front of us. Wow. But I digress. Again. We were only in the VIP area for around five minutes before the concert started – around 8.30. I can’t remember what song he opened with, but whatever it was, the crowd loved it. Actually, the crowd loved him. And his show. Big stage, big sound, big lights, big choreography, big entertainment. Big energy.
It was in the second half of the show – about three songs in – that JT (and his backing singers) made his way to the VIP via a hydraulic staircase, stopping on the way to tinkle some ivories. And that’s then we knew it was actually happening. The bar was wiped down, security advised us to “step away from the area” and keep our (relative) distance. The opening riff of What Goes Around (the only song I can actually remember with any real clarity, incidentally!) heralded the start of a wonderful rendition: slow, gentle and sad – building to a glorious crescendo of musical celebration. JT sashayed and crooned is way over to exactly where Daughter and I were standing. I held my hand up to him, and while he didn’t touch me, we locked eyes for a few seconds, communicating our mutual admiration for each other (well, that’s how I interpret his eyes smiling down at me). He didn’t look at all scared like Benedict Cumberbatch* did. Daughter said he touched her hand.
Incidentally, in the song before, one of his lovely backing singers actually did hold my hand. She spotted me on the causeway, decided I wasn’t scary (take note Benedict Cumberbatch!) and took my outstretched hand. She crouched down, still holding it, and sang to me. It would be fair to say that we shared a moment. Daughter was shocked – in a good way – that it happened. Wow, she said. Just wow. Actually, wow is an accurate description of the entire evening. Wow that we got picked, wow that we got up and personal with JT, wow that he touched her and looked at me.
Wow. Just wow.
*I really must tell my Benedict Cumberbatch story very soon! Actually, 2014 will go down in history as being the year of celebrity interaction…!
** I can’t speak highly enough of the security personnel employed by the AEC. They were professional without being overbearing, chatty without being pushy. The dude standing near us was happy to chat with us about his 20 years in the security business, and his experiences dealing with celebrities.