Justin Bieber Mumbai Gig Review: Concert Notes By A Non-Millennial

Justin Bieber at D. Y. Patil Stadium.Is Justin Bieber god? As somebody not quite old enough to be the same age as the Canadian singer’s father but old enough to have had a child the age as the average Bieber fan, we’ve wondered why he seems to be the only international pop act to enjoy such fanatical devotion, the kind enjoyed only by gurus and godmen in this country. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that his fans are called Bielebers, the most hardcore of whom travelled from across the country and forewent food and drink to camp outside the international airport for days just for a glimpse of his first steps on Indian soil. They wouldn’t have minded that to attend his gig at the D. Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, they had to walk 20 minutes from the box-office to the venue, to which there was a lack of proper signage and at which the refreshments were inadequate.

They may have minded if he had not shown face on time. In Dubai, where he once showed up two hours behind schedule, news reports of his concert last Saturday noted the exact time at which he got on stage. Here, being two hours late would have meant no concert at all, because of our 10pm loudspeaker time limit. We had nothing to fear for Bieber arrived a just a few minutes after the announced hour of 8pm. After all, he is currently touring the world in support of his 2015 album Purpose, the central theme of which is his acknowledgement of his past transgressions and his subsequent redemption. Just how divine was his appearance? Here’s our song-by-song recap of his show.

Mark My Words It’s 8.08pm and Bieber is officially later than the time he showed up for his Dubai gig. The audience is nervous. At 8.10pm, a video featuring 3D images of Bieber starts playing on the screen. The crowd roars. At 8.12pm, the exalted one appears, dressed as if he’s headed to the gym, in a white Palace T-shirt and black Adidas shorts. The b-boying and b-girling back-up dancers are working much harder than Bieber, who does a few arm waves. If he really was god, then he would be able to sing and arm wave at the same time, we think to ourselves. Then we shake the thought off and tell ourselves we have to keep the faith.

Where Are U Now We’re only into the second song and already fireworks have been set off. They’re justified perhaps because the Jack U smash is the track that finally got critical acclaim that so long evaded him and also earned him his first Grammy in 2016. It was the first Bieber hit non-Beleibers didn’t hate.

Get Used To It We realise that unlike his ‘Love Yourself’ collaborator Ed Sheeran, Bieber is a generous performer as he spends most of his time on the ramp rather than on the stage so that his fans can have a better look of his graceful moves. “How you guys doing tonight, India?” says Bieber at the end, leaving us to wonder if he’s unaware of exactly which city he’s playing. “This is going to be the best night of our lives” he promises to which some girls reply with “I think I’m going to cry” and “We love you, Justin”.

I’ll Show You The crowd is singing along to this non-single album cut. Justin is only lip-syncing intermittently.

The Feeling After briefly disappearing, Bieber is back with a black face towel, which was not among the items listed in his extensive rider. Perhaps the 12 white handkerchiefs he wanted in his dressing room proved to be inadequate for the muggy weather. We come to the conclusion that being a dancer for Justin Bieber is one of the most selfless, thankless jobs in the world. No matter how many spins and summersaults they do, nobody is looking at them.

Boyfriend Only girls can be heard singing along to this 2012 hit, which was Bieber’s first flirtation with hip-hop-infused pop. The dancers’ costumes light up in sync with the beats, something that reminds us of ‘Sara Zamana’ (see from 2:16 in vid).

Cold Water, Love Yourself A mic is brought to the middle of the ramp, after which Bieber requests “two seconds” to tune his acoustic guitar, which has had to cope with humidity to which it is unaccustomed. The stripped-down renditions are so far the only songs Bieber actually sings and are in some way the highlight of the show, which has so far put style over substance.

Been You Female dancers clad in checked shirts and black trousers make shapes to this 1980s-style jam, which looks to us like a live H&M commercial. On second thought, we gather that being in Bieber’s band is a more thankless job; they toil away at the back of the stage and the spotlight is not once thrown on them. On comparing the proceedings with the set list of his Dubai gig, we find that his cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ has been sacrificed for the five extra minutes he took to get on stage.

Company We notice that Bieber has a Jesus tattoo on the back of his left leg, which seems to be emerging from his white tube sock. It’s a good thing he lives in liberal California, and not fanatical India for religious groups might take offence with his choice of bodily placement.

No Sense Justin starts the song by charging down the ramp to nobody in particular, after which he points his finger to the sky while singing “It don’t make no sense unless I’m doing it with you” leading us to momentarily contemplate, having seen the Jesus leg tattoo a few minutes earlier, that ‘No Sense’ is a spiritual composition. Then again, a line of it goes: “I’ve driven almost every car/It ain’t the same when I’m without you, boo”. So maybe it isn’t.

Hold Tight This song is such a filler that even Bieber couldn’t be bothered to sing it through allowing for a extended guitar solo and finding enough time to hug the keyboardist.

No Pressure Justin finally notices his back-up dancers and flips one of them, in a god-like display of agility and strength.

As Long As You Love Me Green laser beams accompany this dance ballad, which is intro-ed with a breakdance showcase by the long-ignored troupe.

Children Bieber has added a light pink scarf to his workout ensemble. He stands for a bit at the end of a shorter ramp to the right of where we’re standing. From the angle we’re at, his mic is positioned in such a way that he looks like he’s sporting a Chaplin-esque moustache. As if he can hear our thoughts, he adjusts the mic. When he returns to the main ramp, four Indian kids are shimmying behind him along with two young men who are probably dance instructors. We feel like we’re seeing an episode of Boogie Woogie. Justin asks the children, two boys and two girls, to introduce themselves and then mangles their names in his American accent much to the amusement of everybody around.

Let Me Love You The mic briefly returns to Chaplin position during this DJ Snake earworm, which Bieber ends by sprinkling water on the crowd and then throwing the bottle into it. He can afford to because unlike in the case of his sweat-drenched, severely dehydrated fans, water bottles seem to magically appear for his consumption at the end of the ramp. But we shouldn’t be too hard on the Bieb; never mind his demands for “almond milk, strawberry and vanilla protein powder, raw organic honey, decaffeinated herbal teas” as well as “24 alkaline water bottles, 4 energy drinks, 6 vitamin water bottles, 6 cream sodas as well as a cooler packed with assorted juices and fizzy drinks”, he seems to be chugging ordinary Bisleri.

Life Is Worth Living “Mumbai,” Justin says and then asks us to repeat it slowly like he just did. We figure he’s recently been made aware of where he is and this is a memory strengthening exercise. A pair of dancers seems to be doing the steps in the videos for Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’, which Sheeran co-wrote. Maybe we feel this way because there’s something Sheeran-esque about the twee piano ballad, which has nothing to do with the British singer. Cellphones are being waved in the air, and we observe that the iPhone 7 is the most popular mobile in the platinum section. “Is he taking off his shirt?” asks a girl in anticipation, when Bieber lowers his hands to his neck towards the end of this tune. “No, his bandana,” replies her boyfriend. Said scarf/bandana is predictably given to a member of the audience in the diamond section, tickets for which were the priciest at Rs25,200. If they sell it on eBay, they might just make a return on their investment.

What Do You Mean? Seconds after leaving, Justin returns after having removed his shirt off stage. He’s wearing a bright red T-shirt and now, perhaps tired at the fag end of his set, is only mouthing a word here or there. Perhaps he’s a mere mortal after all. Even the fans are now drained, it seems, for their cries of “Justin, Justin” have been shortened to “JB, JB”.

Baby “Who wants to be my baby?” Bieber says evoking roars but doesn’t actually do the clichéd lifting-a-girl-from-the-crowd. Instead he follows it with a whole bunch of clichéd lines such as “This has been one of the best nights of my life” and “I will be back”.

Purpose “‘I’m The One’,” requests a girl close to where I’m standing. But Bieber’s newest chart-topper is not part of the current set list, maybe because it is so new and perhaps also because he just sings the chorus in the collaborative track. We wonder whether Justin has supersonic god-like hearing skills because he next says that he wants to remind us that this is “the Purpose tour” and “how we all have a purpose” and “the best is yet to come” sounding not unlike an evangelist. At this point, we spot somebody waving an Indian flag and hope that Bieber doesn’t decide to do a Chris Martin.

Sorry The gap between the penultimate track and the encore is mercifully short and the dancers perform the signature moves from the video to ‘Sorry’. Justin, who might have just had a shot of Red Bull, starts jumping with a chap in a white tank top and yellow headband, who looks like one of The Chainsmokers (making us wonder if a collab is in the works). Another dancer in a camou top has got hold of the flag and is brandishing it. Bieber and his troupe embrace in a group hug and then prance off stage. It’s 9.50pm, ten minutes before the loudspeaker time limit. Not a word is said over the PA but everybody knows that Purpose has been performed in its entirety, the hits have all been heard and it’s time to go home. For the benefit of those who don’t want to accept it’s all over, the PA plays a few seconds of ‘Beat It’.

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