Two Concerts, Six Blocks and Seven Million Viewers*

By SteveK 

Within just a few blocks of each other, two distinctly different sounds emanated from Midtown Manhattan this morning. While tween sensation Miley Cyrus performed on the plaza at NBC’s Today show, singer-songwriter Feist was performing on ABC’s Good Morning America in nearby Bryant Park. We were there for each this morning, as were thousands of others.

The two spaces are very different. Plaza vs. park. Intimacy vs. atmosphere.

Last Friday, Good Morning America saw more than 13,000 screaming Miley Cyrus fans in Bryant Park. This morning Feist drew about 700. The Today show puts their Cyrus crowd in that same 13,000 range, although the smaller space meant many watched on monitors while standing around corners, without sight of the stage. A lucky few got close enough to reach out and touch Cyrus or her half-dozen backup dancers.

Click continued for the full morning rundown, from a stop in the control room and Miley’s dressing room, Meredith Vieira’s take on the morning and a look at what you don’t see on GMA…

*Estimate: The final ratings will be released Thursday.

By 7amET, when we arrived at 30 Rock, the crowd was already cheering wildly upon any movement from the adjacent building. As throngs of tweeners stood, many with Mom in tow attempting to get closer to the stage, cheers rose and fell with regularity. At 7:20 the production crew cleared the stage runway, where some kids had found a place to sit. But it would be another hour before Miley time.

And it wasn’t just the kids who were psyched for the performance. A Today staffer handing out Summer Concert Series fans had to yell, “No pushing,” to a large crowd of parents.

And the parents and kids weren’t the only ones getting…feisty. A still photographer, who was one of about 25 members of the press, got angry at a woman holding a large cardboard sign. “Tell her to put it down,” the photographer said to the woman’s child. “She won’t do it,” said the daughter. “I’m going to throw rocks at her,” said the photographer.

Meanwhile, signs of Miley devotion bordering on child abuse were on full display. One sign read: “I pulled my first all-nighter at age 6 for you, Miley.” At one point we spied medics attending to two young girls who were about to pass out.

But back to the fun. The voice of Al Roker got the crowd pumped up around 7:45amET, instructing everyone to yell, “Hiya, Joe,” to director Joe Michaels.

Because of the close proximity to the studio and control room, we were able to make our way into the building at NBC. Senior broadcast producer Don Nash (filling in for EP Jim Bell who was on vacation before heading off to Beijing next week) and the rest of the control room was preparing for the concert, while Meredith Vieira, was talking with her guests from the previous segment backstage. “What a freakin’ crazy day,” she told us when asked about the mob outside.

Stopping in Cyrus’ dressing room, we overheard “Shut up,” and “Take one with my sister,” while photographers snapped pictures and handlers milled about. Before hitting the stage, the megastar did some pre-show harmonizing with her backup singers.

We ran into senior producer Melissa Lonner, who handles concerts and other celebrity-related segments. “The crowd has been amazing,” she said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. It’s the only place to get up close to the artist, more than any other stage. It allows the audience to get to know them.”

Back outside, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, who brought his kids, reflected on some of the past concerts with big turnouts (including New Kids on the Block and Bruce Springsteen), saying, “Everyone brings a different audience.”

After the first song, “See You Again,” (we looked it up) we began our seven-block jog over to Bryant Park and Feist. “He’s leaving already?” could be heard from an annoyed young girl toward the back of the pack.

When we arrived at Bryant Park at 8:45, the mood was somber from the GMA set/stage. Diane Sawyer had just delivered the sad news of the death of Randy Pausch whom she’d profiled this past April. Robin Roberts then introduced Feist’s next song, “I Feel It All,” and the crowd began cheering loudly. The fans were a mix of young and old, male and female, some in Feist shirts and some inexplicably wearing rainbow feathered headbands (see picture above).

After Feist closed the set, we talked with Tom Kelly, the stand-up comedian who warms up the crowd, bids them goodbye and keeps them entertained between commercials. “It’s a beautiful atmosphere,” said Kelly, who also has done warm-up for The View. “We get the best crowds, it’s outside on a great summer day. This is a dream.”

Jeff Zucker surveys the scene, and gets ready for Miley Cyrus.

David Gregory, filling in for Matt Lauer, begins a segment just before Cyrus emerges.

Feist finishes her performance with the crowd singing along to her hit, “1234.”