Last week I got to attend the 100th Grey Cup under the guise of covering the Justin Bieber half-time show. It was pretty exciting for me in part because the Toronto Argonauts were in the final (and won!) and because going to a Grey Cup game was on my list of things that every Canadian must do at least once.
The big story that came out of the half-time show was that Bieber got booed mercilessly (read my onsite report).
That statement is… inexact.
Did Justin Bieber get booed? Yes and sort of.
Here’s what happened: During a stoppage in play somewhere between mid-1st quarter and mid-2nd quarter the Skydome (nobody calls it “Rogers Centre” except Rogers employees) showed a giant image of Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen on the Jumbotron with some sort of “Stay tuned for Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen at the 100th Grey Cup half-time show…”-type message.
THIS got super-booed. As in, everyone in the arena was really loudly booing.
The game continued. Then came the half-time show.
The stage got built, which took about five minutes, then Gordon Lightfoot played on a small riser far removed from the main stage. During this time half the stadium emptied out to go get beer/food/pee break. Meanwhile, somewhere in this time frame about 300 screaming girls were unleashed on to the field to surround the main stage. Then Marianas Trench played (who were wretched, truly awful). Then Jepsen played. Then Bieber.
Besides a short burst of teen girl screaming when Bieber hit the stage and a bit of gauzy, unfocused low end rumble that could have been booing, the crowd noise during Bieber was relatively inaudible.
Bieber’s face on the jumbotron during the game = super-booed. His half-time performance = not so much.
Now, an audio-minded conspiracy theorist could suppose all sorts of things from this. First off, in advance of the Grey Cup game the Argos had been practicing with crowd noise pumped through the Skydome speakers — the assumption being that the ‘Dome would be hella loud during the game and when the Argos would be on defence the noise would disrupt their opponents the Calgary Stampeders plans if they couldn’t hear themselves.
During the actual game Argos players and cheerleaders were constantly whooping and encouraging to the crowd to make noise when Calgary had the ball. This is all pretty standard football stuff. Nothing nefarious there.
But what if the stadium was miked for crowd audio (for a high-profile televised sports event… this is a certainty) and during the big game the home team, on their home field, fed some of that crowd audio back into the stadium soundsystem to make the crowd noise seem louder? There’s a long sports tradition of home team fans, hoteliers, venue staff, etc trying to mess with visiting teams before and during big games (painting the visiting team’s dressing room the day before an NHL playoff game is a thing home arena staff do to the away team), so touching up the audio to help the Argos — who practiced to anticipate said noise — is well within the realm of possibility.
So how does this relate to Bieber? Well, what if that jumbotron flash earlier in the game was a test of the “augmented” audio the stadium was using? So when the super-booing happened the decision was made to completely dampen crowd audio during Bieber’s performance — just turn it right down — be it boos or cheers. Which would explain the relatively mute sounding crowd during the half-time performance.
Now, have I investigated this? Talked to people? Dug further? No.
This is mostly just tin foil hat-wearing with a minor in event trolling. I don’t actually care enough to investigate further beyond the 20 minutes it took to write this. So take it for what it is, nothing more.
By the way, I actually did write about Bieber’s performance for Huffington Post Music Canada. The story — in which pretty much everyone has ignored the obvious sports analogy-as-defense-of-Bieber — has resulted in a fiery comment war based on gnarled CFL fans vs. teenagers lines. You can read, and comment on it, by clicking here.
Here’s the performance, filmed by someone in the Rogers Centre — not via the television feed (which would have had tinkered crowd audio). Decide for yourself: