Justin Bieber at BST Hyde Park, London, review: Entertaining pop spectacle with more than a few awkward moments

Fans seem more than happy as they stream out of Hyde Park at the end of the evening – but you’re left wondering if Bieber actually enjoys any of this himself

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 03 July 2017 12:28
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The ‘Sorry’ singer seemed to be just going through the motions at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park
The ‘Sorry’ singer seemed to be just going through the motions at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park

There is little better than a weekend festival in London when the sun actually decides to shine.

By early afternoon fans are already milling around the main stage at BST in Hyde Park – some of whom had been waiting outside the main gates since 11am – in anticipation of headliner Justin Bieber.

But before that there’s a host of other artists to check out: opening the main stage, French pop artist Jain attracts a whole new set of fans with an energetic performance of tracks off her brilliant debut album Zanaka.

DJ extraordinaire Martin Garrix plays a thrilling set complete with flames that shoot out from the front of the stage and plenty of smoke, plus a surprise appearance from Dua Lipa for their hit “Scared To Be Lonely”.

Whipping out remixes of Daft Punk and The Weeknd along with plenty of his original material, Garrix brings an Ibiza club vibe to a blistering hot afternoon in London – something that many DJs would balk at.

Dua Lipa on stage at BST with Martin Garrix (Getty)

Much of the speculation surrounding Bieber’s headline slot is whether he will actually show up – he’s been known to keep fans waiting for up to two hours. So it’s a shock when someone shouts that he’s gone on 20 minutes early and we all make the mad dash from the bar.

Screams – as loud as you’d expect – ring out as he skips up and down the catwalk performing hit after hit.

His interactions with the audience veer from the mundane to the faintly bizarre – at one point towards the end of the set he stops to explain, in great detail, that he has dried-up Vicks stuck up his nose (he was suffering from a cold).

This also supposedly explained why he mimed so many of his songs – although this is apparently actually a common occurrence at most of his gigs.

Too often during the set it looks as though the 23-year-old is just going through the motions, with moves that appear half-hearted next to his outstanding backing dancers. This would be fine if this were a mid-level pop show, but disappointing for one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.

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This show has the same set as his Purpose tour so there’s little room for spontaneity, to the point where he scolds his backing dancers for having a laugh as he addresses the crowd. “Is what you’re talking about more important than what I’m saying?” he asks them, turning around to look at them on the catwalk.

Yet in between these awkward moments are flashes of the brilliance that was heard on his most recent album Purpose – mature, uplifting, futuristic pop music that brought in expert production from Skrillex and Diplo, as well as influences from tropical house and EDM – and he has one hell of a backing band who grind out epic funk riffs on the bass and add more weight to some of his older material.

And paired with just his acoustic guitar, left alone on the stage, Bieber brings things back to basics for stunning renditions of Ed Sheeran co-writes “Love Yourself” and “Cold Water”.

Closing on his smash hit “Sorry” there are all the usual trappings of a pop gig you’d expect – smoke, fireworks, lights – and it is a thrilling spectacle that has fans, predictably, screaming for more. You just wonder if Bieber actually enjoys any of this himself.

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