Monday 3 July 2017

Justin Bieber @ BST, Hyde Park

Justin Bieber @ BST, Hyde Park

Clearly it’s ok to like Justin Bieber these days, judging by the huge crowd at his headline BST gig consisting not only of screaming tweens but unapologetic adults (myself included). But that doesn’t mean he likes you back, or gives off any air of actually wanting to be there.

Has there ever been a more half-arsed popstar? Sure, he seems to be featuring on a new track each week (although the setlist here was mostly a copy of his Purpose Tour), but as a performer he’s quite simply unprofessional. Fireworks shot into the sky as he appeared on stage, but no amount of visual trickery can make up for his lazy vocals, frequent miming and general limb movement that’s meant to pass for dancing. When we go to see our idols we expect to be wowed, to be dazzled, to be blown away by breathtaking talent. Bieber gives us none of this, his performance lacklustre, weak and apathetic.

Between songs he’s even worse. His idea of stage banter is to complain about the amount of Vicks he had stuffed up his nose (he had a cold). “It’s a rough night,” he moaned, as if that was an excuse. He even snapped at his dancers at one point, his self-importance wrapped up in the retort “is what you’re talking about more important than what I’m saying?”.

Then there’s the music. Besides the handful of hits the majority of the audience came to see, Bieber’s output is mostly average R&B-pop songs that even his star power can’t lift. There was no Despacito here (he probably still doesn’t know the words), nor recent hit 2U with David Guetta. Cold Water on which he featured with Major Lazer was included in a stripped back acoustic section, as well as Love Yourself, though this proved he really needs a few more lessons on those strings. An a capella rendition of Usher's U Got It Bad was a nod to his old mentor, even if he was too lazy to learn the chords.

Thankfully for the rest of the set his backing dancers provided some much needed visual energy, while the exceptional band added extra riffs and funk grooves to his biggest hits.

And what hits they are. Where Are Ü Now, What Do You Mean, Sorry. The three big hitters, still sounding as brilliant now as they did two years ago, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy. Even Boyfriend and Baby sounded fantastic, no longer cheesy bubblegum songs but credible pop tracks by a credible popstar. For most of the crowd, hearing these songs alone was enough.

Yet no amount of money, talented backing, or fireworks can hide the burnt out star at the centre of it all, a young man who performs not with cool ennui but the petulant boredom of a teenager.

Those songs though…those songs!

And the rest of the afternoon you ask? Naughty Boy proved he has zero good songs. Anne-Marie played a few pop songs that everyone knew. Tove Lo played some great pop songs nobody knew. And Martin Garrix played some dance tracks for the kids to pretend they were in Ibiza, though his set picked up dramatically when he stopped playing his own stuff and switched for remixes of Daft Punk and The Weeknd. In all it was fun, if inconsistent.