No matter what you think of Justin Bieber’s music, there’s no denying he puts on a spectacular show. Sporting a massive set of wings, the 18-year-old heartthrob flew in on aerial wires, landing at centre stage at Scotiabank Place on Friday as fireworks went off and lights blazed around him. A sold-out crowd of 16,800 was delirious with excitement.
In a sleeveless white hoodie that showed off surprisingly muscular arms, Bieber commanded the stage with greater authority than the last time he passed through Ottawa. Two years ago, he looked like a kid zinging around an elaborate video game; now he’s got the maturity and confidence to own the stage. Everything about him seemed to have more definition, from his chiselled arms to his sharp haircut to his athletic choreography and even his singing. His voice has changed, of course, but it’s also taken on a toughness that suits the urban electro-pop-rock that’s been constructed around him.
Freed of his wings, the Biebs kicked things off with the ripping All Around The World, followed by Take You. With a sly tone in his voice, he asked the crowd if they missed him, teasing them further by singing a few bars of U Smile and That Should Be Me. Demonstrating his best crooning voice, the soulful mood continued as dancers in white dresses cavorted on a smoke-filled stage.
As you might expect from one of the world’s most popular musical acts, no expense has been spared in the production of the Believe tour. In addition to the multi-level stage — it has four staircases, several video screens, a catwalk and a hydraulic lift — there was a full band, including DJ and backing singers, and at least a dozen dancers. Rocking out on guitar was Bieber’s musical director, Dan Kanter, who’s from Ottawa and looked to be having the time of his life in his hometown.
The cherry-picker lift was an especially ridiculous gimmick, its long arm sweeping Bieber over the crowd of screaming fans while he sang the ballad Be Alright, clearly his most, um, uplifting tune. Unaccompanied by the band and unadorned by effects, his voice was rather ordinary, and it was difficult to take the emotion of the song seriously if you were directly beneath his perch.
But his words had conviction when he let his swagger down for a moment and talked about how much he appreciated the support of his fans. His young fans are called “beliebers” for a reason: their level of devotion was expressed in ear-piercing shrieks and the frantic waving of glow sticks.
The frenzy came to a peak in the encore, which placed his hiphop-inflected hit Boyfriend next to his frothy breakthrough, Baby.