The last time I took notice of Justin Bieber, I was looking at his bare backside. He’d uploaded a picture of it on Instagram and it created a big enough ripple online to affect even non-Beliebers like me. At the DY Patil ground in Navi Mumbai, the venue of his first concert in India, however, Bieber kept his half-pants firmly on through the 90-minute gig, even if he threw his scarf to the fans at some point.
I was easily the outlier. Around me was a sea of hapless daddies who’d hoisted their preteens on their shoulders for a better view (“saw, beta, saw?”). Mummies chorused ‘If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go’ along with their sons. Dudes lit cigarettes and pretended they were at Pink Floyd. Adult couples happily French-kissed in full view of 10-year-olds.
It was a clearer view than the stage. Even in the Platinum section, the inner sanctum of devotion, where tickets sold for over Rs 15,000 each, fans kept returning from the proscenium, lips pursed, heads shaking as they failed to get good pictures.
To be a non-Belieber at a concert is to wonder what the fuss is all about. Sure, the songs are easy on the ear. The themes about love, never letting you go, never giving up, and needing you all tend to blend into a wholesome syrup.
But individual lyrics can be hard on an outsider. Is that line ‘Get used to it’ or ‘Can you swim’? Is it ‘I’m lovin’ the feeling’, or ‘I’m in love with the villain?’ Did I hear something about life being a movie, at a gig where I only saw the Bieber on screen?
Halfway through the concert, it didn’t matter. Bieber’s stage posse had stellar bass, drums and keyboard artists, who didn’t look as embarrassed to be there as some bespectacled uncles near the back.
And watching a kid using her camera zoom to watch a live screening of a performance 15 feet away is its own kind of performance.
Bieber fans have no machines to rage against. “Make some noise!” Bieber orders, and they obediently do. They catch his air kisses without irony. They sing along about rescuing someone from cold water. It’s almost magical, until a little girl, seated on her papa’s shoulders, kicks me in the back.