He arrived inside the arena virtually, as a winged image flying from one side to the other.
Then the lights went up and the real Justin Bieber arrived inside the Sprint Center, airborne and winged again. He descended to the stage, where his band and a troupe of dancers awaited him, and for the next 90 minutes put on a show that kept much of the sold-out arena on its feet, singing and screaming and screaming some more.
These days, Bieber, 18, is still an eminent pop idol, but he is approaching the crossroads every teen star faces: the transition to adult star. For now, his fans are primarily young girls, teens and tweens, and he caters to them and their puppy-love innocence. But it also seems evident that he is plotting a slow move towards the adults' table, a move few have navigated, though his successful role model seems to be another Justin (Timberlake).
Bieber is touring off his third album, "Believe," which is also the name of this tour, also his third. His set list included 10 of its 13 songs. Though the album is barely four months old, the audience reacted to each of its songs as loudly and feverishly as it did the older material.
He opened with a new one, "All Around the World," setting the table for what would follow: -- music, dance,f ireworks, lasers, flashpots, confetti storms, plenty of costume and wardrobe changes and lots of video accompaniment. His songs are blasts of percussive confections, melodic and groovy and superficially rewarding. The long list of songwriters and producers who contribute to his material includes names like Max Martin, who helped make N' Sync and the Backstreet Boys famous.
There was plenty of visual candy, too. The stage changed sets several times. For a while it was a large ship of some sort. During "She Don't Like the Lights," as he and his dancers delivered the live goods, the enormous video screen showed footage of Bieber, looking very matinee idol in a black suit and tie, playing what looked like the hero of some espionage film, running and leaping from one rooftop to the next, dropping bad guys along the way.
The night felt like one long blitzkrieg of of song, dance, ear-piercing screams and visual flash, but a few moments generated more noise than others: "One Time" and "Eenie Meenie," two of his earliest hits, "Beauty and a Beat," which featured some virtual vocal accompaniment from Nicki Minaj; "Beautiful," when he was joined by one of his openers (and his protege) Carly Rae Jepsen; and one of his encores, "Boyfriend," a track from "Believe" that has become his biggest U.S. hit (it reached No. 2).
During a couple of those wardrobe changes, the video screen showed documentary footage of Bieber's rise from a precocious tot who wanted to be a crossing guard when he grew up to the aspiring singer soon to be plucked from a teeming sea of YouTube performers and thrust into international stardom. He comes off as a polite, hardworking kid with a sense of humility and a sense of humor.
There's no telling right now whether he has enough of the other goods he'll need to stay airborne and cruise into a career as a multi-media entertainer of young adults. He'll need some growth and refining. But he seems grounded enough to do it.
Setlist: All Around the World; Take You; U Smile/That Should Be Me (acapella); Catching Feelings; One Time; Eenie Meenie; Somebody to Love; Love Me Like You Do; She Don't Like the Lights; Die In Your Arms; Beautiful (with Carly Rae Jepsen); Out of Town Girl; Be Alright; Fall; Never Say Never; Beauty and a Beat; One Less Lonely Girl; As Long As You Love Me; Believe. Encore: Boyfriend; Baby.
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