Published Dec 08, 2015When Justin Bieber dropped Purpose last month, he didn't just deliver his latest collection of chart-topping pop tunes, he made a declaration. His entry into the realm of pop music as an adult, the songs show off a sense of self-awareness and creativity never before attributed to the bowl cut-sporting kid from Stratford, ON. Sleek production from Skrillex and Blood Diamonds made singles slither their way into the consciousness of an older-than-tweenage crowd and by offering up a huge "Sorry," public opinion shifted on to the singer's side following a string of unfortunate public fuckups. And while his reintroduction into the spotlight hasn't been flawless — just let the guy mop up the goddamn stage, people! — he has definitely grown up.
Performing to an intimate (by his standards) crowd of 1,500, the stadium-filler stripped things down at the Danforth Music Hall for an acoustic set, joined only by his musical director and six-stringer Dan Kanter. When the hoodie and toque- wearing Biebs himself stepped onstage, he was greeted with deafening screams — which he would attempt to quell a couple of times throughout the night, urging audience members to listen and enjoy the performance — as he launched into "What Do You Mean?"
Live and acoustic, excellent singles like "What Do You Mean?" and late-set highlight "Sorry" lost the glossy production wizardry of Skrillex, but Bieber's singing managed to make up for it. His vocals were on point, delivering (for the most part) a delightful blend of surprisingly soulful, nuanced emotion and pitch-perfect falsetto. Standouts included "I'll Show You," "Love Yourself" and covers of Ne-Yo's "So Sick" and hometown hero Drake's "Hotline Bling."
From the outset, Bieber explained that he wanted to keep the set "loose," but the show dragged in places and moments of banter were awkward and uncomfortable for anyone who wasn't screaming too loud to hear it. A mid-set hat swap (complete with a brief glimpse at his flow of bleached blond locks) and a comment about "taking it all off" sent the screamers into particular frenzies. There were sweet moments of genuine appreciation for his fans — even bringing a birthday girl on stage to be hugged and serenaded with "One Less Lonely Girl" — but the lack of structure and low points like a butchered rendition of the Beatles' "Let It Be" left lots to be desired.
Surely a night to remember for the already converted, the haphazard, lazy hangout vibe of the show just wasn't enough to win over a whole new legion of Beliebers.
Pick up the deluxe vinyl edition of Purpose on vinyl here.