SUNDAY TIMES - SA Beliebers pay top dollar for ‘intimate’ experience
Sunday Times Entertainment By NIVASHNI NAIR, 2017-05-14 00:00:00.0

SA Beliebers pay top dollar for ‘intimate’ experience

Bieber fans, from left, Jess Holder, Rose Barnsley and Skyla Snyman, all 15, are travelling from Pietermaritzburg to watch Justin Bieber perform in Johannesburg tonight.

What does an 18-year-old psychology student, seven-year-old Grade 1 pupil and a mom who turns 40 today have in common?

They are among 100,000 South African Beliebers who will be screaming, singing and dancing to the tunes of 23-year-old Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, who performs in Johannesburg today and Cape Town on Wednesday.

Concert tickets ranging from R450 to R15,000 for the former bad boy of pop - whose career sank into a black hole after controversial outbursts and behaviour that culminated in his arrest in 2014 - have been sold out even though it's his second visit to the country.

Somehow the Sorry singer has managed to charm back his legion of fans. According to Big Concerts CEO Justin van Wyk, his fan base has grown significantly since his 2013 visit to South Africa, from hysterical teens to exhilarated adults.

Tiffany-Amber Moses coaxed her parents into buying a R15,000 ticket to the Cape Town show . "I want to be as close as possible to him," the first-year psychology student said.

Moses will watch Bieber perform from the J-pit, inside the stage at Cape Town Stadium , and get a pre-show backstage tour featuring a sneak peak of what it takes to create the Purpose World Tour, an invitation to the VIP lounge, a premium merchandise package, an "exclusive" commemorative laminate, a VIP concierge service and easy access to the toilets.

While pricey concert hospitality packages usually include a fan meet-and-greet or photo opportunity, promoter Big Concerts has emphasised that this does not apply to Bieber.

"The R15,000 ticket doesn't guarantee I will meet Justin Bieber, but there is a chance that we may bump into him backstage," Moses said.

She begged her parents to buy her a ticket for fans who wanted a "more intimate" experience.

"It's my birthday and Christmas present. I really had to convince them. But I have been a Belieber since 2009 and they know how much I want to be as close to the stage as possible.

"There will be people who say it is an outrageous price to pay, but if my parents want to do it for me then I don't see the problem," she said.

Kelly Hendrickse bought an R8,050 ticket because she wanted to experience the concert to the "fullest".

"I'm beyond grateful to be able to experience the show from the pit and be a 'pitlieber', as the fandom calls it," she said. "Watching videos and seeing photos from his tour ... Beliebers in the pit have been able to be so close to him, to experience the show from in between the stage sections."

Someone else who will be screaming alongside thousands of teenage girls when Bieber performs at the FNB Stadium tonight is Veda Covaci.

She joked that perhaps the "purpose" of his concert in Johannesburg was to celebrate her 40th birthday.

"I wouldn't say seeing Justin Bieber in concert on my 40th birthday and Mother's Day was my only wish, but it was pretty high on the list.

"I started to appreciate his music when he released his latest album. I am not a Belieber. I am a new Bieber fan," the mother of one said.

Justin Bieber has put aside his bad-boy image. Image: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Gauteng mom Susan Smuts is one of the many parents who have been convinced by new young fans, aged under 10, to take them to the concerts. Smuts is taking her seven-year-old son, Jasper, to tonight's concert.

"He discovered Justin Bieber through a friend's older brother who listens to the music," she said.

"I don't think anyone I know will be at the concert. I don't know any songs. It is a school night and he will be incredibly tired the next day and there will be thousands of people. But I am a pushover, so we are going."

While some are reluctant to be seen at the concert, diehard Beliebers are going all out to catch Bieber's eye. Via her Twitter account, @RSABELIEBERS, Silke Botha "is rounding up the troops" to release purple balloons at the concert.

"Fans want Justin Bieber to remember every concert he performs at, so in every city Beliebers try something new to get his attention. We want to release purple balloons when he sings a particular song. We chose purple because it's his favourite colour," she said.

Bieber arrived in South Africa fresh from a concert in Mumbai, his first performance in India, in front of an estimated 56,000 fans on Wednesday.

Based on his recent gigs in Dubai and Tel Aviv, Beliebers can expect to hear 22 songs ranging from Mark My Words to Where Are Ü Now, as well as an acoustic cover of Tracy Chapman's iconic hit Fast Car.