The 13th Floor’s Kate Powell on Justin Bieber’s Auckland show…
Justin, Justin, Justin. Oh. Justin Justin, Justin, No.
Where do I even begin?
I’ll start by giving credit when credit’s due- he has metamorphosed from tween heart throb to bad boy who sings catchy mid-tempo bangers about sex and/or redemption with paint by numbers precision. He’s had a few predictable run-ins with fans/the law, but these have been largely overshadowed by some likeable pop songs that by virtue of some strategically credible collaborations (Diplo, MO heck, even Skrillex) have catapulted him into unironic coolness within the Top 40 crowd. This is even though the stripped back club sound he is currently championing has been around for the last five years at least if you know where to look. He can undoubtedly sing too, albeit in that breathy falsetto way, but none of this makes him distinguishable from a thousand other boy-pop wunderkids with the right producers at his disposal.
His paint by numbers career to date doesn’t make him a bad artist, just a bland one, nor is it a narrative that music fans are sick of hearing yet- after all, Justin had completely sold out his Australasian leg of his Purpose Tour, which ended at Mt Smart Stadium last night.
As a music reviewer, I can take bland and predictable, because I acknowledge that a large number of people like easily digestible pop that artistically doesn’t push any boundaries and that’s fine. It fulfils its Purpose. When it becomes problematic for me as a reviewer is when the star eschews the very people who make them famous-their fans- and that’s exactly what we got at Mt Smart Stadium.
Purpose was meant to be Bieber’s penance tour, but all it cemented in my mind was the price of idol-worship. He could have come onstage and sung Mary Had a Little Lamb and I doubt the audience, or more importantly Justin Bieber would have cared.
Judging by his listless, wooden performance, Justin didn’t seem to care about being his own show’s weakest link as he shuffled awkwardly around the stage, unbothered about hiding his lip synching as he chewed gum incessantly. His hollow eyes showed a performer that was going through each precise movement of his nightmare as he mentally counted down each smash hit-Baby, Where R U Now?, Boyfriend etc- that whipped the crowd further into a frenzy. This lack of care was only further compounded by his limp attempts at platitudes ripped straight out of The Secret peppered throughout the show. Even his interactions with some local kids brought on to dance with him during Children seemed trite and disingenuous.
Judging on his performance last night, Justin seems to have figured out that he doesn’t have to try anymore and I’m sure it was a revelation for him. By virtue of who he is, he will get the same reaction regardless. When his presence is coupled with a sensationally distracting lights, lasers and fireworks display, it becomes abundantly clear that the evening was less about performance and Bieber’s musicality than it was about the spectacle that is Justin Bieber.
Simply put, there wasn’t a single moment that felt genuine, and regardless of what I think about the credibility of his music, his fans deserved better than the bored twenty-something onstage who couldn’t be bothered to crack a smile let alone sing. Which leads me to ask “is it too late now to say sorry?”
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