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Concert Reviews:
Justin Bieber sets up holiday weekend for Palace crowd

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012

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AUBURN HILLS -- The night before Thanksgiving is traditionally the biggest bar night of the year, but the easiest place to get a beer in the metro area on Wednesday, Nov. 21, was probably The Palace.

The average Justin Bieber fan -- tweens and below -- is a little too young to imbibe, after all, though their put-upon parents might have been happy for the easy access for something to drink, especially if they were waiting in one of the unimaginably long lines in front of the souvenir stands.

Three years and three platinum-or-better albums in, Bieber Fever is still in high gear and was gladly "suffered" by Wednesday's sold-out crowd of sign-toting girls at The Palace. And the 18-year-old pop sensation only raised the temperature with a scream-inducing 95-minute spectacle that showed, yes, a bit of growth from his last show here in August of 2010 and a continued reverence for the flashy showmanship of his forebears -- most notably Michael Jackson and Bieber's mentor Usher.

Give Bieber and his show planners props for this; the concert was certainly age-appropriate and didn't try to make him anything more than what he is -- a lanky, PG (not even 13) rated singer who writes a solid pop tune and has a genial, unvarnished stage presence. Bieber can move, but the tightly choreographed script left the heavy lifting to his 12 dancers. He's not a booty guy, nor did he try to be -- though he did let his pants droop occasionally to reveal the waistline of his underwear. But it was refreshing to hear the relative innocence in songs such as "Take You," "Catching Feelings," "As Long as You Love Me" (no in-the-flesh appearance by Detroit rapper Big Sean, however) and, of course, "Baby."

And when Bieber brought a fan on stage during "One Less Lonely Girl," he simply serenaded her without a single bump or grind that are standard practice for so many of his pop colleagues.

The show played better as a visual piece, of course, its the three-tier stage loaded with video screens, pyrotechnics and hatches through which Bieber and his dancers appeared and disappeared. After a lengthy break (55 minutes) following opening act Carly Rae Jespen, Bieber started out suspended above the crowd, attached to a large pair of wings and "flying" to the end of an extended ramp with confetti flying around him as he sang "All Around the World." "Take You" introduced an astronaut motif, while at the end of "Catching Feelings" Bieber "dove" into a bank of fog, emerging on screens swimming underwater.

"She Don't Like the Lights" began with a video of Bieber battling with paparazzi, which he and the dancers than acted out live. "Die In Your Arms" was a doo-wop styled set piece, and he was airborne again during two acoustic songs, "Be Alright" and "Fall," though a string breaking during the latter kept him from playing guitar. The concert not surprisingly focused on this year's "Believe" album (10 of the 17 songs), and Bieber -- who played a short drum solo at one point and a bit of piano on "Believe's" title track -- deftly handled his earlier material with a capella snippets of "U Smile" and "That Should Be Me" and an early-show medley that sprinted through his 2009 debut single "One Time," "Eenie Meenie" and ôSomebody To Love."

If the show had a flaw it was its pacing, or lack thereof. Each song seemed like a self-contained, albeit elaborate, production piece, with little in the way of transition or flow. But Bieber's clearly making strides in his still-young career, so it's safe to, well, believe that more growth will come as he goes on.

There was a slightly heroic vibe to Jepsen's appearance on Wednesday, meanwhile. Word spread throughout the metro area during the day that she was sick, not performing the previous night in Pittsburgh and missing a radio appearance earlier in the day Wednesday. But the Canadian singer sounded only slightly hoarse towards the end of her 30-minute opening set, clearly understanding her role to hype the crowd for Bieber but offering an energetic sampling of seven tracks from her Top 10 "Kiss" album, including the hits "Call Me Maybe" and her buoyant Owl City collaboration "Good Time."

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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