On opening night of his Believe Tour last September, at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., Justin Bieber threw up on stage. Just went out there and threw up. Stage fright? Breakup guilt? Press ammunition? Doesn’t matter: The kid puked, and everyone knew about it.
Almost a year later, the feeling is still mutual.
The tour, now in what seems like its 72nd leg of worldwide travel, is going strong. He’s played some cities two or three times, selling out some venues in under a half-minute. And there are still five months left in the current itinerary, barring the formation of any new continents or Mars bookings.
That the Apprentice of Pop’s reign hasn’t ended isn’t hard to believe; he’s the real deal. He can legitimately vocalize (in his recently-post-pubescent way); he can really play instruments (YouTube, the new superagent, pitched us on that); and he can dance like he thinks he invented it (because he might have). Recent tabloid time for airport monkey-confiscation and Bill Clinton badmouthing is nothing; he’s got years more to screw up his reputation with adults. All that matters is what the kids think of him.
Which is why Monday night was important. Like, oh my God, the most important night of the year. In just the immediate two rows surrounding my seat, I witnessed spontaneous, explosive tears; a teenage mother whose toddler daughter was more demure than she; a Soul Train of middle-aged Beliebers, sans kids; and a precious but impatient 3-year-old who exclaimed about the long wait to her mother: “Come on! We’re getting old, Justin Bieber!”
That little lady knows what she’s talking about. These fans are getting older, and so is their idol. And some day soon, they’re all going to marry him and have his Bieber babies. But until then, a concert and a T-shirt will have to do.
The set, which appears to have rarely changed since that fateful night in Glendale, includes most of his 2012 album, “Believe,” including some tracks from his acoustic deluxe edition, “Believe Acoustic.” A few megahits from 2010’s “My World 2.0” are there, too, for good measure. Don’t want to forget the classics.
“All Around the World” kicked things off with an illustrious stage spectacular, including indoor fireworks, enough smoke to fill a conversion van, and a moving lighting globe that ushered our guy onto the stage. He was connected to this spinning contraption by wings, as in 6-foot-long metal angel wings that he wore via backpack – a lot of look.
“Do you want to go around the world with me tonight, Buffalo, New York?” he screamed. “Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!,” they screamed back.
From this point forward, the boyish man, or mannish boy, or whatever size sneaker he’s wearing these days, did his best to convince us that he was our king – The King, in fact. Michael Jackson is an obvious influence on his career, which is not to his discredit. But somewhere in his comeuppance, Bieber missed the memo on what parts of Jackson’s career to borrow. The voice, moves and clothing, that’s an acceptable, expected, if not nauseating, part of young pop royalty. The sunglasses, the impression-of-a-statue stage entrance, the flying on stage by way of wings – that’s absurd. Even in the most improbable stages of his career, Jackson had still earned the right to be that crazy. Bieber’s still earning facial hair.
It’s a weird thing to watch, this idolatry of whoever cracked the code. Bieber’s proven he’s got talent, and he’s demonstrated the knack for being a celebrity, but what he’s done with that in even a short four-year span, is still puzzling. Still, he’s got that something special. I mean, even Oprah interviewed him.
It’s apparent when you watch his two opening acts – pop-synth producer Mike Posner, who helmed Bieber’s “Boyfriend;” and punk-poppers Hot Chelle Ray, who hail from Nashville, Tenn.– did their thing, and probably to the best of their ability. But their concept of stage presence was sub-tutorial. When the latter’s lead singer Ryan Follesé introduced bassist Ian Keaggy, they both just stood there.
Luckily, their headliner showed them how it was done, even if that’s how, apparently, it’s done. You can’t add more lights, light more fireworks, or wear more wings and come out without grossing people out. Opening night was proof of that.