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. 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices