Brooklyn’s Barclays center was an empty black box for much of August. The last concert to take place in the 19,000-seat venue? Beyonce’s Aug. 5 gig, capping off three nights at the venue her husband Jay Z helped bring to fruition. But as of Saturday, Aug. 24, the year-old arena has been transformed as the gathering place for many of music’s biggest names. The occasion: MTV’s Video Music Awards, touching down on the outer borough for the first time and using its local culture, storied history and sense of community as inspiration for Sunday’s show.
“This is beyond what I envisioned,” says VMAs executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic from the arena floor -- three giant moonmen (designed by Brooklyn artist KAWS) towering over him. “It's one thing to see it on a rendering, but to be in the room and to see this kind of scale and to see that [Moonman’s] head turn, it's just so dramatic.”
Heads will turn, alright. Slated to perform on the two-hour show are eight acts including Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Drake and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Also set to appear or present: One Direction, Ellie Goulding, Adam Lambert, Wiz Khalifa, and many more. Plus, Ignjatovic reveals that Katy Perry will perform at an offsite location that screams Brooklyn.
“We really wanted the show to be a statement and reflect Brooklyn,” he says, which means lots of Beastie Boys tunes as interstitials and maybe -- hopefully -- an appearance by the two surviving members of the group who helped define the network for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
Ignjatovic is staying mum on any such surprises -- including the possibility of an NSync reunion, although his pronounced smirk seems to indicate that MTV, like millions of fans, want the five-piece back. Justin Timberlake however, will for sure be on hand to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, which was presented to his equally famous ex-girlfriend Britney Spears back in 2011.
MTV boasts a record number of sponsorships for this year’s show, despite a dip in ratings for the 2012 edition. For his part, Ignjatovic, who’s partnered with Evan Prager in production company Den of Thieves and will next take on American Idol, pays little mind to the numbers.
“I don't gauge success or failure based on ratings, I always judge the show on how well it turns out,” he says. “I really want people to see what we created here and how we’ve worked in Brooklyn. I'm proud of it already.”