Aaron Carter & Fan_3 on the Jingle Jam Tour in New Orleans, Louisiana: Friday, November 12, 2004
Okay, I'm watching the sound check in front of the New Orleans Arena and glamorous young people who look like professional
dancers keep glancing at me with friendly expressions, leading me to believe that my photographs have garnered me more publicity
than even I had imagined. As it turns out, these really are professional dancers, backing up Aaron and Fan_3 on this tour,
and I snap a shot of two of the more photogenic ones crossing Girod Street. They seem oblivious to the huge burst of light
from my monstrous flash, nonchalantly taking it in stride without the faintest glimmer of a reaction.
Fan_3 comes out, and I end up taking more photos of Aaron’s opening act than I had anticipated, partly because the
most photogenic dancer is on stage with her, and partly because Fan_3 herself is genuinely endearing with her remark, “Before
you see Aaron, you have to get through me.” Opening up for the Prince of Pop is a thankless task, and I’ve got
to believe that’s why Stevie Brock (a charismatic star in his own right, dubbed “The Next Aaron” by the
media in France) quit that gig in the middle of last year‘s tour. Midway through Fan_3’s set, the flimsy, cardboard
backdrop being used on this stage gets blown down by the wind, which seems to lighten everyone’s mood, and I get some
great shots of the dancers smiling as they go through their routines.
Fan_3 finishes and some woman named Kim something-or-other, a disc jockey at the local Radio Disney station, courageously
appears. Kim looks like a schoolteacher dressed like one of Santa’s elves and I’m amazed at what grownups will
do at the behest of corporate America. Some shill yells to Kim that she’s got a phone call and he hands her his cell,
which she places next to the microphone, and, presto, out comes the voice of Jesse McCartney saying he’s sorry he couldn’t
be there, and the teen girls start to moan and say things like, “He’s hot, too,” and I imagine Aaron strangling
some Disney flunky backstage. Then Kim says that Aaron is feeling under the weather because he’s got a touch of the
flu, but AC is a trooper and the show must go on. I watch the middle aged woman next to me as her face becomes a grotesque
mask of disappointment, rolling her eyes as if she’s not going to get her money’s worth, even though the Jingle
Jam tour is a series of freebies.
Well, the Disney hacks manipulate the crowd ruthlessly, introducing Aaron, keeping the stage empty, getting Kim to lead
chants of “Aaron, Aaron” from all the dedicated supplicants, even getting one of the crew to bound onto the stage
and signal “cut” to the sound guy. Finally, the fans are requested to scream and there’s a loud but unsustained
outburst, and then we hear Aaron himself, in the sweetest, most charming voice known to mankind, say, “If you would
just keep screaming till I get onstage, I’d really like that,” and I’m thinking, “This is how he must
talk to girls in hotel rooms,” but soon the air is filled with a noise like hundreds of females on the verge of ecstasy
and the Prince of Pop is satisfied.
Aaron takes the stage and something frighteningly like a “Hallelujah” arises from the frenzied mob, even though
AC isn’t wearing the “I Am God” t-shirt he wore in L.A. As a matter of fact, Airboy is wearing a New Orleans
Hornets jacket, and it’s the first time I’ve seen one of those things, because we New Orleaneans are as ashamed
of our sports teams as we are humiliated by every other aspect of our city, except the food. Of course, Airboy has no way
of knowing this, and he probably wouldn’t care anyway because this appearance is obviously a quid pro quo publicity
stunt concocted by the Hornets in conjunction with Radio Disney. Like Kim the DJ, Aaron is just doing his job, albeit on an
entirely different level.
Immediately I notice that Aaron is performing sans makeup, an extreme departure from the August 7 Baton Rouge show, in
which he had layers of the stuff applied, giving him a flawless but artificial appearance. This presents me with a dilemma,
because I know that some of the close-ups will mercilessly feature every blemish in graphic detail, and I’ll have to
choose between presenting the most artistic versions of those photos or doing what’s best for Aaron’s career and
filtering them with a Gaussian Blur. I suppose I should just keep in mind that, in a previous generation, a scruffy, pimply
faced kid named Mick Jagger burst on the music scene and managed to fuel the fantasies of teen girls on a worldwide basis,
so perhaps I should just present Aaron as is. Furthermore, if Aaron himself (not one of his representatives) told me to edit
or delete any photo, I’d do it without a moment’s hesitation because, truth be known, I care about this kid as
much as anyone else at the venue.
I should also mention that some of these photos seem to indicate that Aaron is consumed by his 7th Heaven role as Harry,
the homeless street kid, and AC frequently resembles one of the runaways you see hanging out on Bourbon Street (despite the
diamond belt buckle which obviously costs more than the yearly salary of any fan in attendance, including me). People don’t
understand showbiz kids, never have and never will; they’ve got the same feelings as any other kid, but they’re
constantly in the public eye and are incessantly presenting contrived images to enhance their careers. Besides, Aaron is,
himself, the product of a broken home and recent, much publicized familial strife, so it all fits. I realize that, in his
own way, Aaron is as vulnerable as any other 16-year-old, and I hope that he’s around people who genuinely love and
Twice during this concert, Aaron led me to believe that the recently completed Jukebox Tour really was 100% his own idea:
at one point, Aaron elicited screams from “just the parents in the audience” which seemed to give him immense
satisfaction, and at another juncture, Aaron spoke directly to the older generation, introducing “Run, Run, Rudolph”
as an homage to Chuck Berry and even doing the once scandalous duckwalk that Berry patented.
To what will be the chagrin of many fans, no shirtless photographs of Aaron are available from this show. As was mentioned
earlier, Aaron wasn’t feeling well to begin with, he complained about the chill in the air during his onstage patter,
and he even felt the need to wear his jacket while performing his final song. An entertainer can only give so much.
Just once, I stopped taking photos and decided to establish some sort of nonverbal rapport with my subject. Aaron noticed,
but I didn’t receive the unguarded, gregarious warmth which blew me away in Baton Rouge. Instead, Aaron put the microphone
in front of his face and stared down at me with a serious, puzzling expression in those soulful brown eyes. I got nervous,
put the camera in front of my own face, and kept it there.
As soon as the show wrapped, Aaron and his entourage made a B-line for the New Orleans Arena, an obvious ploy to lead his
fans to the thousands of always empty seats at Hornets games. I almost took the bait, but I had photos to edit and, as it
turned out, a review to write. I hope you enjoyed reading this, as I hope you enjoy the soon to be posted photos of Aaron’s
most recent Crescent City appearance.
November 13, 2004