Music review: Justin Bieber at the 02 Arena is a pale shadow of the Timberlake-style Justin he wants to be
The music is the usual box-ticking corporate pop
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Wednesday 06 March 2013
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.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
These Harry Potter lipsticks are sparking all sorts of controversy with Hogwarts fans
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Hunted: Channel 4 to test 'surveillance Britain' by taking Big Brother to sinister new lengths
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs