News Column

Bieber Fever Hits Oakland

Oct. 8, 2012

Jim Harrington

Justin Bieber

Young Justin Bieber is growing up.

You couldn't tell it by looking at the crowd on Saturday at Oracle Arena. The fans who filled the Oakland venue to bursting capacity were, for the most part, still young, female and incredibly enthusiastic -- the same kind of high-pitched true "Beliebers" who greeted the Canadian heartthrob during the 2010-11 My World Tour.

Yet, that's where the similarities ended between his debut trek and his current Believe Tour. This time around, the 18-year-old Canadian heartthrob, who has already sold more than 15 million albums, came across as a vastly more polished, professional and well-rounded entertainer.

He's no longer just a cute kid with a great haircut and a decent voice. He's also a savvy artist with a game plan for what he wants to accomplish onstage -- and the ability to carry it out.

Bieber is making the leap -- the most treacherous jump in pop music -- from teen idol to adult star. He's not there yet, but Bieber seems well positioned for a smooth landing.

The sold-out show, which arguably was the top ticket in a very busy Bay Area weekend that included shows with Madonna and Florence and the Machine, also featured fellow Canadian pop-vocalist Carly Rae Jepsen. She set the table for the headliner with a likable set that was, of course, highlighted by "Call Me Maybe," the utterly addictive slice of fluffy dance-pop that has been simply impossible to escape in recent months.

"Call Me Maybe"

earned an uproarious response from the crowd, but it was nothing compared to the thunder that struck once Bieber took the stage. Ever wonder how loud 15,000 people can be? The answer was given as Bieber made one of the most ridiculously flamboyant (and awesome) entrances in recent pop music history. It's the new working definition for "over the top."

As the band struck up "All Around the World," from this year's chart-topping "Believe," Bieber appeared atop the three-story stage setup looking like something out of Greek mythology. He was a winged pop-music god, with giant metallic flaps extending from his back, and he took flight -- both literally and figuratively -- crooning for the masses as he descended toward earth.

Clouds of smoke came pouring down from the ceiling. Lasers shot here and there. Confetti rained. Dancers boogied through synchronized steps. An amazing lighting scheme, designed by Phish light man Chris Kuroda, pulsed to perfection. Fireworks burst in glorious colors. And it was still only the first number.

With that kind of an opening segment, it's amazing that the rest of the show didn't feel anticlimactic. Yet, thanks in large part to excellent pacing and star power for the ages, the concert only grew more intriguing as the night progressed.

Of course, Bieber's vocals are not his top selling point -- and clearly not as important as his hair, which looked great throughout the show -- but he still sounded strong enough as he continued through such cuts as "One Time," "Eenie Meenie" and "Somebody to Love."

Even better, however, was his stage banter -- which seemed to drive the crowd as wild as any of his songs. He focused mainly on inspirational messages, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed his career, and stayed away from the hot topics -- such as his relationship with Selena Gomez and his much-reported vomiting at a recent show.

There were some nauseating moments, however, such as a

Justin Bieber Justin Bieber performs in concert at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Saturday. The Canadian teen idol is on tour in support of his new album "Believe." (Anda Chu/Staff)

video montage of career highlights that could've been titled, "50 Reasons Why I Am More Awesome Than You."

And he was pretty awesome -- whether he was crooning the "Beautiful" duet with special guest Jepsen, assuring people that everything was going to "Be Alright," wooing thousands of hearts with "Fall" or grinding through the big single "Never Say Never."

The show closed just the way it began -- minus the big metallic wings. The encore was another big production, which swept us through the hits "Boyfriend" and "Baby" and left everyone in the house with Bieber fever.



Source: (c)2012 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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