The evolution of Justin Bieber came full circle with the release of his EDM influenced 2015 album Purpose. No longer the bratty teen heartthrob caught pissing in buckets or driving recklessly around LA, Bieber has officially transformed into a semi-mature, fully-fledged pop star on the same level of a Justin Timberlake or Ed Sheeran. Confronted with 50,000 screaming fans at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, Bieber makes sure everyone gets their money’s worth, pumping out the hits over 90 minutes featuring dancers, pyrotechnics and an impressive stage set-up.
First appearing in a glass box hovering above the stage, the crowd, of mainly young girls and life long Bielebers, along with the odd parental guardian and bored looking boyfriend, scream hysterically as Bieber begins with ‘Mark My Words,’ the opening track to Purpose. Emerging from the box flaunting his own Purpose tour merch and a pair of Adidas track pants, Bieber has everyone out of their seats as the beat drops for the Diplo and Skrillex produced club anthem, ‘Where Are U Now,’ with fireworks and green lasers illuminating the arena.
While the audience is fully invested, Bieber appears to be going through the motions. Right form the get go Bieber has an expression of boredom plastered across his face, his lacklustre dance moves during the choreographed routines quite noticeable. It’s understandable the 23-year-old is knackered as he’s been touring the globe for over a year now, but it would be nice to see him crack a smile or put a little effort into his moonwalk, not that anyone seems to notice.
The same can’t be said for the production team who are on their A game, with a stage set-up incorporating coloured lighting, pyrotechnics, lasers, two massive video screens and a huge runway containing hidden levels. ‘Get Used To’ features thumping live drums as Bieber sings on a raised platform in the middle of the stage. ‘I’ll Show You’ finds the Biebs in a cage at the end of the runaway as lights and graphics swirl around him. ‘Boyfriend’ is the first of many crowd sing alongs as fireworks light the night sky and smoke bursts from the runaway.
Bieber slows things down mid-set with a couple of acoustic numbers. Taking a seat on a red couch at the end of the runway, Bieber serenades the front rows with Major Lazer’s ‘Cold Water’ and his own hit single ‘Love Yourself.’ He keeps the mood low key with Purpose cuts ‘Company’ and ‘No Sense,’ with the Travis $cott verse intact.
Rejoined by his incredible back-up dancers who’ve been carrying him all night, Bieber drops both Big Sean assisted tracks ‘No Pressure’ and ‘As Long As You Love Me,’ before bizarrely playing a drum solo on a raised platform. While he’s no Tommy Lee, Bieber hits the sticks hard and demonstrates he’s a capable musician while giving the older members of the audience time to grab a drink and use the facilities.
‘Children,’ Bieber’s best attempt at a Michael Jackons-esque ‘Heal The World,’ finally finds the Canadian showing some emotion. While his dancing is still questionable, his facial expressions begin to show he’s actually enjoying himself, and this continues throughout the remaining songs. Joined by four young local dancers during the DJ Snake produced ‘Let Me Love You,’ Bieber shows his softer side, introducing each dancer and getting the crowd to cheer for their efforts.
Phones are held aloft for ‘Life Is Worth Living’ before more fireworks erupt during an energetic rendition of ‘What Do You Mean?’ easily the best pop song of 2015. Addressing the crowd for one of the few times, Bieber reinforces his “purpose” is to make music before lying down on the stage and breaking into the title track.
Bieber leaves in a cloud of smoke as his DJ urges the crowd to yell his name for one more song. Of course he obliges. Dancers surround the Biebs as more fireworks shoot into the night sky during ‘Sorry,’ with the singer reminding everyone to “Be yourself. No one else can be you.” Poignant stuff from The Biebs.
Thanking the tens of thousands who have shown up, Bieber disappears off stage as the die-hards continue screaming for more; safe in the knowledge he’s delivered one of the best pop productions this country has seen in years.