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.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Churchill: The Nation's Farewell, TV review: Paxman reveals truth behind crane docker tribute, but delivers a fitting honour to Winston
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures