Gad Oron may have been the most popular man in the country over the last few weeks. The Tel Aviv-based concert promoter, who has had a large hand in bringing musical heavyweights Elton John, Metallica and Leonard Cohen to Israel, has been deluged with e-mails and phone calls about his next big attraction – teen idol Justin Bieber.
“I’ve been getting over 100 emails a day and dozens of phone calls – not just from young girls but from grandfathers and mothers – all saying something like if their daughter isn’t able to meet Justin, her world will be destroyed,” said Oron last week, taking a short break from the logistical frenzy of organizing a huge, open-air show with one of the world’s most red-hot teen heartthrobs for the prepubescent set.
Every pop-era generation has had its teen idols – from Ricky Nelson in the 1950s to David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman in the 1960s and boy bands like New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys in more recent decades, but Justin Bieber may be in a class of his own because of one attribute the others lacked – the Internet.
The baby-faced 17-year-old Canadian with the pixie hair was discovered thanks to a homemade YouTube clip he posted four years ago. It was seen by Scott “Scooter” Braun, the 29-year-old music business entrepreneur.
“I’ve got to find this kid; I became obsessed,” Braun told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal last month. Braun found Bieber, he was signed to Island Records, and within a year, Bieber’s first single of frothy, upbeat pop, “One Time” and debut album My World, which was followed last year by My World. 2.0, propelled him to superstardom and introduced the term “Biebermania” to the pop culture lexicon. And it shows no signs of slowing up. The 3-D biopic-concert film Justin Bieber: Never Say Never earned nearly $50 million last month in its first two weeks in theaters.
Jewish filmgoers may have been surprised to see and hear the Christian singer, along with his crew, recite the “Shema” before going on stage.
Braun told the Jewish Journal that the ritual emerged from prayer circles that formed before each show backstage.
“I felt that if we were going to say a prayer ‘in Jesus’s name, amen,’ that Dan Kanter [the show’s music director] and I, who are Jewish, should be represented as well,” Braun said.
“We’d do the same if we had someone Muslim or Hindu in the group – we’re all-inclusive. So Dan and I would say the ‘Shema,’ and after the third show, as we were about to say it, Justin chimed in,” he recounts.
“I asked him, ‘What the heck was that?’ and he said, ‘I memorized it.’ He said, ‘This is something Jesus would have said, right?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Then I want to say it with you guys.’ I explained that it’s one of our holiest prayers and that it means the Lord is one, and he thought that was cool. He knows it’s in ancient Hebrew; he knows that Jesus would have said it, and since Dan and I are every close to him, he wanted us to feel included as well.
He’s a very special kid,” says Braun.
He mentioned that Bieber was interested in attending a Seder while he was here for his show at Hayarkon Park on April 14, but according to Oron, he hasn’t been approached by Bieber’s staff about it and isn’t aware how long the singer is expecting to stay in Israel. His next scheduled show after Tel Aviv is three days after Seder night, on April 21 in Malaysia.
“We’ll be happy to organize anything that he wants,” said Oron.
“A Seder, tours around the country – we ‘ve been approached by hospitals and organizations asking him to visit sick children, but I’m not sure if he’ll have time.
“This is his first big outdoor show on this tour. In Europe he’s only appearing indoors, so there are going to be differences in Tel Aviv both technically and in the performance.
So I know he’s going to want to concentrate on putting on the best show he can.”
Oron added that it’s been taken into the consideration that the audience is not going to consist of the usual rowdy rock fans who generally attend outdoor shows, but young girls and their parents.
“The security will be as stringent as at any show in the park, but we’re putting a much greater emphasis on safety. We’ll have double the number of ushers on site, and more than half of them will be women, which is unusual for a concert,” said Oron.
“They’ll be able to relate to the girls more than burly ushers would at a regular show. We hope it will be a friendlier atmosphere.”
That sounds comforting to Jerusalem resident Jodie Cohen-Asaraf, who is
taking her 11-year-old daughter, Sivan, to the show, along with her
sister-in-law and two nieces.
“I heard about him at the beginning of the school year. I really like
his voice,” said Sivan, who had asked her mother to buy her a ticket to
the show. Cohen- Asaraf agreed but initially backed away when the ticket
prices of NIS 330 for children (with adult chaperone tickets set at NIS
110) were announced.
“In the end, we were able to get reduced tickets through Bank Discount,
so we decided to take them,” said Cohen-Asaraf. “I remember when Paul
McCartney came, the tickets were about the same price. I think it’s
ridiculous to pay the same for Justin Bieber.”
Cohen-Asaraf can remember, however, when she was her daughter’s age and
cut pin-up posters of Cassidy and Sherman out of magazines and taped
them to her bedroom walls. To her, Bieber is the heir apparent to the
teen throne, and she can identify with her daughter’s infatuation.
“It’s part of growing up, being a little girl and screaming at the cute little boys.”
Or, to put it more succinctly, it’s Biebermania. And it will be out in full force on Thursday night at Hayarkon Park.
On Sunday, Oron issued a press release announcing that, after many
appeals, the production team, together with Bieber’s management, had
decided to issue free tickets for a parent’s entrance to the concert
with the purchase of two tickets at NIS 240 each.
It wasn’t clear whether the move to issue free chaperone tickets to
parents was purely altruistic or reflected slow ticket sales leading up
to the concert.
According to media reports, tickets sales have been less then desired
and haven’t come close to the 25,000- 30,000 that Oron was hoping for.Justin Bieber will perform at Hayarkon Park on April 14. Tickets can be purchased via www.leaan.co.il or at (03) 527-0545.