In case you missed it, Justin Bieber's in the middle of his second tour in Australia. The Canadian pop star is touring his fifth studio album Purpose, and faced an AFL-sized crowd at Etihad Stadium on Friday March 10. We went to check out the action so you didn't have to.
1. Justin Bieber is really into EDM now, guys.
The Canadian singer has been distancing himself from his beginnings as a cherubic pop star with his new electronic sound. And just in case you weren't convinced of his EDM credentials, he lined up Dutch DJ Martin Garrix as his support act, who gave the pre-teen early comers a taste of what Stereosonic once was. Watching starry-eyed kids hear their first sick drop is more fun than you think. Ah, youth.
2. Bieber fever has hit more 20-something girls and more dudes than you might think.
The last time Bieber fever hit Melbourne four years ago, there were scores of very patient saints parents accompanying half the audience members and who were waiting outside like it was time for school pick up. This time around, many Beliebers were either old enough to go on their own, or they got hooked on the guy when he released EDM crossover hits like 'Where Are Ü Now' and 'Sorry'. Girls still outnumbered guys at least five to one, but there were definitely more dudes than you'd expect, and not just a few very nice boyfriends.
3. Bieber is all about the showmanship now.
You know you're doing something right when all it takes to please people is to show up on time. The last time the one-time Calvin Klein underwear model toured Australia, he made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he graffitied the Gold Coast QT Hotel, called a Perth fan a "beached whale" and showed up over an hour late to the Melbourne show to the dismay of the chaperones. This time around, he treated the AFL semi-final sized crowd to an on time show. He made his grand entrance by landing to the stage in a giant clear cube singing 'Mark My Words', the first track off Purpose, and writing 'This is living' inside his cube for some reason.
4. EDM crossover might be his current jam, but a Justin Bieber concert is still more about those punchy stadium edits.
If anyone in the audience thought they were in for an straight electronic show, then they were only kind of right. Right off the bat, the club lasers came out and there were fireworks on the big drop in 'Where Are Ü Now'. But if you haven't been listening to Purpose religiously, the big give away that Bieber can't yet fully commit to the electronic genre came on the fifth track, when the 2012 single 'Boyfriend' (#tbt) finished to an bafflingly long stadium-standard drum solo followed by half-hearted vinyl scratchy sounds from the hype man's deck.
5. Expensive stadium shows can't fix a lack of stage presence.
I wanted to enjoy the big stadium show, the bright lights, the massive hydraulic stage sets and the polished choreography. Really, I did. But it just feels a bit empty when the star of the show barely interacted with the audience the whole time and slinked around the stage with one hand in his pocket looking bored half the time. He might be putting on a huge stadium show, but his stage persona was more wallflower than Britney in Vegas.
6. The Bieber can play music.
In a nice throwback to his pre-Calvin Klein days and in a rare show of audience interaction, Justin Bieber snuck in a couple of throwbacks to his beginnings as a young YouTube heart throb. As he was playing an acoustic guitar cover of his recent collaboration with Major Lazer 'Cold Water', a couple of 15-year-old girls behind me said he looked a lot like his pre-teen self in his old videos busking on the streets of small town Canada (it's cute). Early fans also went wild at his indulgent drum solo halfway through the setlist, but apparently his drumming skills are not a secret.
7. All things considered, the Beliebers loved him.
We can pick his shows apart, but one thing's for sure: Beliebers, whether they're long-time fans or late bloomers, looked like they were having the time of their lives. Sure, it was hard not to cringe when people turned on their cellphone torches and waved their phones in the air on a slow song, but looking around from the ground level seats it was clear that people were thrilled to be part of the show. Bieber's come some way from his bratty antics on his last tour, and while it would appear like he hasn't managed to completely shed his less-than-perfect attitude, it did look like the thousands of people at Etihad Stadium last Friday weren't disappointed.