Concert Review: Justin Bieber at the ACC
On Thursday night, I was intent to examine the first of the Biebs’ two nights at the ACC, purely to witness Bieber as a performer. In the end, I found two clear truths: 1) it isn’t easy to put aside his increasingly sullied reputation when you watch him on stage; and 2) hidden under layers of pyro, plentiful costume changes and a small army of capable dancers is a talented entertainer who has become largely disengaged and disinterested when performing live.
You wouldn’t know it from the crowd, though. The 14,000 Beliebers in the audience reached a fever pitch at several points during the show, perhaps no more than when an on-screen countdown clock reached 00:00 and a chant of “Justin” rang out amid the shrieks. There was an unmistakable air of excitement among the predominantly female crowd when Bieber began his oft-teased routine of selecting a fan to serenade during “One Less Lonely Girl,” just as there was a sense of crushed despair among the many who did not end up getting chosen.
The fervent passion of Bieber’s fan base almost obscured the rampant self-indulgence of his hour-and-a-half set. Coming out an hour late without any sign of an apology, the Stratford-born singer emerged above the crowd sporting a pair of high-tech angel’s wings, which would have seemed like a response to his recent tabloid scandals if not for the rest of his behaviour. Beyond the angel’s wings, there was preening and posing and fake modesty, perhaps best represented when he humblebragged to the audience that his “One Less Lonely Girl” choice had “come all the way from Sweden just to see me.”
Unfortunately for that girl, and the many others in attendance, the talented singer’s live performance left plenty to be desired. Known for his dancing, Bieber offered precious little beyond some half-hearted routines alongside his considerably more energetic dancers, along with a gratuitous amount of crotch-grabbing. His singing — when he actually did sing and didn’t let his backup music track do the work — was surprisingly off-key, particularly on the high notes of songs like “Fall.” His only real musical highlights came when he switched roles and stepped in as a pianist, a guitarist and a drummer, showcasing some legitimate and varied talent.
On the mic, Bieber was at his disingenuous best, offering up empty platitudes (“I’m so honoured to have all you great fans supporting me”) and generic greetings (“It’s great to be back in Canada”). While he did acknowledge having watched the Leafs in that very same building, it was hard to ignore the lack of a meaningful connection between the crowd and their 19-year-old heartthrob.
By the time he got around to his show-closing rendition of “Baby,” it was clear that this is an artist who has become virtually unrecognizable from his younger, wide-eyed self.