It was no coincidence that the tunes of Michael Jackson filled the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Sunday as a digital clock counted down to the start of Justin Bieber's set. Jackson is clearly Bieber's big inspiration and career model, but it'd be a joke to proclaim Bieber the new King of Pop, even though his U.S. tour reportedly sold out within an hour.
Yet in concert Sunday, he suggested he may be capable of perhaps, one day, claiming that throne, a notion that was truly laughable to the Bieber Fever-immune three short years ago.
Even with electrifying dance club hits like "As Long As You Love Me" and "Beauty and a Beat" from the June album "Believe" ushering in a more mature sound, the 18-year-old Canadian pop star was more kid than adult in concert. Sometimes, that worked against him. A grand entrance had a stiff Bieber, wearing sunglasses, "flown in" on massive wings that just made the singer seem puny. A video sequence with Bieber fighting off high-flying paparazzi was more silly than thrilling.
But it was appropriate that Bieber wasn't too adult, since the majority in the shrieking crowd were teen girls and younger. We got glimpses of the waistband of his underwear and a naked torso wrapped in a vest -- but he didn't bring sexy back as much as cuteness.
And more often than not, the 1 hour, 45 minute set benefitted from Bieber's childlike demeanor. For all the times he played it cool, leading 12 dancers through tight choreography on "Love," "Beat" and most impressively, "All Around the World," he still wasn't so cool as to seem jaded.
For "Out of Town Girl" he ran around the stage with a video camera, and a short solo on the drums at the end of "Beat" was a burst of unbridled exuberance. He still serenades a beaming teen girl on stage during "One Less Lonely Girl," and he proudly ran through some older material like "Eenie Meenie" and "Baby," the latter remaining a set highlight.
And then there were two songs -- "Be Alright" and "Fall" -- where Bieber sang smoothly, accompanied only by another guitarist, from a revolving cherry picker. It was as intimate as you could get given the 18,000 screaming fans -- and it proved the kid's a genuine talent, not some mere flash-in-the-pan poster boy.
The hyped-up crowd hardly needed a warm-up, but Canadian pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen provided it anyway with a short and sweet five-song set that ended with "Call Me Maybe," the biggest hit of the summer, according to Billboard. Practically everyone in the crowd sang along, but their cheers were loudest when she pushed the name "Justin" through her lips as she walked off the stage.
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