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HomeArts & CultureReview: In form and on time, Justin Bieber impresses in Dubai show

Review: In form and on time, Justin Bieber impresses in Dubai show

It seems Justin Bieber has invested in a watch since his last visit to Dubai.

Not long before his scheduled 8pm stage time a few fans were debating the two-hour delay to his 2013 emirate engagements.

But at 8.06pm a tsunami of screams and hormones surged fourth from all corners of the Autism Rocks Arena.

Before the metaphorical curtain up there was palpable expectation in the air, a feeling that this was beyond concert: an event.

The “curtain” in this case was a plastic box from which the man of the moment emerged to Mark My Words stirring the night.

It proved a brooding, dramatic start to a show filled with contrasts; this introspective intro was swiftly surpassed by a bouncing Where Are U Now.

“What a beautiful night,” announced the Canadian, seemingly dressed for basketball. Had he donned a novelty carrot costume most of this crowd would undoubtedly still have swooned.

Bieber swiftly whipped up an occasion brimming with pyrotechnics and high production values, the 23-year-old letting his hits and army of musicians and dancers do most of the ‘talking’ as the set-list diarized a meteoric rise from cute precocious kid to millionaire tattoo canvas.

Get Used To It proved another collective test of audience deodorant choices as thousands of girls and boys emulated mesmerizing stage routines.

Bieber also has moves, but here seemed satisfied to largely chip in with the slick manoeuvres of his chorus line rather than lead.

Indeed, at times he almost played cameo in his own well oiled, heavily budgeted pop blockbuster; elevated by a mix of canny co-stars and generous stagecraft.

Bieber paused to tell us he was pleased to be among us, but perhaps needed to remind his face. His biggest smile of the night was reserved for a handful of young local dancers who’d joined his energetic gang for a track.

With latest album Purpose hogging charts in 100 countries, Bieber arguably doesn’t need to justify himself beyond song or to issue platitudes. The masses came here, after all, to hear Boyfriend, not banter.

And having ironed out his adolescent speed humps, you sense he’s content just getting on with it, and serving up one of the defining tours of 2017.

Even for casual observers, this visit brimmed with familiar decibels from a star who has made himself impossible to ignore; Company and Baby raucously confirmed as audience highlights.

An epic stage show, backing singers and groovers lent live Bieber welcome colour – and he appeared to rely on a backing track during more physical moments – but he ditched it all for an acoustic guitar to tender a stripped back Cold Water and Love Yourself – appearing comfortable as he perhaps took a leaf out of collaborator Ed Sheeran’s operator manual.

It was an endearing, approachable moment, as well as a reminder this lad has attributes other than silky tonsils and sullen good looks.

He absorbed the adoration with a rare whiff of humility, at odds with other periods of the show when his demeanour was informed by apparent indifference, bordering on arrogance and entitlement.

All that said, with the inimitable Sorry closing out the show along with more fireworks, you couldn’t help feeling present day Bieber has less to repent.

These seasoned ears left for the grid-locked car park courting a little more respect for Bieber the music, if not the person.

He remains more enigmatic than charismatic and – at times – his stage persona is plain pragmatic.

Yet, if part of the “purpose” behind the Purpose World Tour is to convince floating voters about his superstar credentials, this Dubai dalliance will have done no harm at all.

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