Music review: Justin Bieber at the 02 Arena is a pale shadow of the Timberlake-style Justin he wants to be

2.00

The music is the usual box-ticking corporate pop

Fellow music journalists have had their ears blown by Black Sabbath or My Bloody Valentine’s sonic assaults. For a few awful seconds, as Justin Bieber is winched onto the stage wearing metallic angel wings, I fear 20,000 screaming Beliebers will be the last thing I ever hear. Firework cannonades complete the entrance of the world’s biggest solo teenage pop star. He seems blithely unconcerned by his previous night at this venue, when he was by most accounts two hours late.

The flurry of moral outrage at that will probably be good for business. It’s certainly the first time Bieber’s been compared to Guns N’ Roses’ permanently tardy rock beast Axl Rose, and a dash of bad boy allure is just what his management crave. The 19-year-old’s new haircut, deeper, broken voice and mildly suggestive R&B songs on his new album, Believe, are well-trodden steps towards adult stardom last taken by Justin Timberlake.

The young girls at the O2 don’t want him to grow up yet, though. Regular video montages stoke nostalgia for a still more youthful Bieber, when he was a carefully stage-managed YouTube phenomenon. That was where the video for his signature hit “Baby” (reserved for the encore tonight) played out a puppy love rite of passage: boyish Bieber, voice still angel-high, dancing close with a girl at the mall. He’s just as lovably safe now. Even his odd, baggy trousers copiously avoid his crotch.

The music is the usual box-ticking corporate pop. A poodle-haired guitarist is wheeled out to give acoustic backing when sensitive authenticity is required for “Be Alright”, where Bieber’s voice sounds okay. As with his stiff dancing, though, it’s a pale shadow of the Timberlake-style Justin he wants to be. With his Miami Vice white jacket and vest, he looks a 1980s-style, old-fashioned star. And for all the multi-media sleights of hand and sub-Broadway set-pieces which fill the stage, his uncreative music isn’t ever the point. Bieber is simply the latest young man trying to survive in showbiz, and the empty vessel of his fans’ dreams.

Those fans scream on cue, but aren’t hysterical - not even the bashfully thrilled one Bieber serenades on “One Less Lonely Girl”. There’s some quiet British cynicism at his insistence they “follow their dreams”. “Accountant?” a girl ponders to her friend. But they leave happy and hoarse. 

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral