Justin Bieber has been through a fickle relationship with fame and the press. The mop-haired star broke out in 2009, before growing up rather publicly and foolishly. Yet in 2015, he managed to reinvent himself. There were the endearing interviews, carpool karaoke and undoubtedly cool musical collaborations with the likes of Diplo and MØ. Even locally he even inspired a divided feud against the beloved DJ Levins, after he dropped a ‘Sorry’ at Meredith Festival (and still #whocares). For us that really summed up the mood about Bieber in 2015 – you either still hated on him, or embraced him and his newfound coolness with robust passion.
So as we arrived at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday March 15 for the tail end of his world ‘Purpose’ tour we didn't overthink it – we were excited. Despite a raft of slamming reviews, JB managed to sell out stadium in almost every city in Australia. We were there: ready to Beliebe.
Things started out weird when Justin emerged on stage within a glass cube before handwriting ‘Mark My Words’ (the title of the track he was singing) and ‘Jesus Loves You’. He then continued on into ‘Where Are ü Now’ with a backing track doing most of the vocal heavy lifting. Flex Mami dropped a v real truth bomb in this tweet (below) and overall it seemed a bit like he didn’t want to be there.
Things picked when he sung ‘I’ll show you’ from inside a cage. There was something interesting, and for a fleeting moment, intimate and real when he sung “It's like they want me to be perfect / When they don't even know that I'm hurting.”
Backtracking to the JB circa 2015 renaissance, the tracks that took over the airwaves, dance classes and clubs, fell flat live. There was an off tune acoustic rework of ‘Cold Water’ and a lazy rendition of ‘Sorry’ with poorly executed choreography (we saw much better dancing at Amrita Hepi’s classes at Goodgod). Even when he brought out (the slightly questionable prop) several young adorable dancers aged around 7-10 during ‘Children’, it felt weird and forced. But at least they danced better than their idol.
We don’t know who is to blame for Bieber’s meandering performance – maybe he’s been pushed too far by the people around him, maybe he’s going through personal heartbreak or maybe he just doesn’t give a fuck. But whatever it is, when you charge people between $99 to $590 for a ticket and get the hopes and dreams of thousands and fans up, only to deliver an average performance, it just feels a bit mean.
Whether you walked out an even truer Belieber (we fear many did not) or came out feeling disappointed, Justin was there preaching to the converted. He'd filled a stadium on a wet Wednesday night in Sydney. Maybe that’s why he didn’t try – because he didn’t need to.
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