Justin Bieber played two shows in Toronto this week. I was at the first show on Wednesday. Whatever issues I’ve had with Bieber in the past, I can’t deny how great of an album Purpose is. I loved Purpose. Love Yourself is my jam. I was excited to dance it out to Sorry and Company but I think I danced and sang more than Bieber did.
This tour was supposed to be the Justin Bieber Apology Tour™ victory lap. If you’ve been following the recent messaging coming from Bieber’s camp, the story they are pushing is that Justin is a reformed bad boy. He made some mistakes but now he knows his purpose. Well, apparently, his purpose is to give half-assed shows where he barely sings and turns his back to the fans who gave him a purpose in the freaking first place.
Most of the reviews of Justin’s Toronto shows have pointed out how disconnected he was from the crowd. There was barely any eye-contact. (Lainey: this is consistent with shows in other cities – like Washington DC). He had a hype man so he didn’t have to speak much. There were only a few glimpses where Justin seemed like he was having fun and none of those moments included fan interaction. I can count the number of times he smiled on one hand. Yes, there was a disconnect but there was also a whiff of disdain. Justin Bieber did not look like he wanted to be on that stage.
I went with a few of my friends who also work in media. We’re all a little cynical and jaded by that fact that we’ve witnessed bizarre celeb behavior through our jobs multiple times. Some of us even worked with Justin during the early years of his career. He has always had social anxiety. I’ve seen him shaking in the corner during a live show because the audience was too loud and he couldn’t handle it. In that moment, I felt sorry for him. I empathized with the teenager who was overwhelmed by all the attention. During his show, I no longer felt sorry for him. A little worried, sure, but my empathy is wearing thin. If the whole message of this album is supposed to be about finding purpose, shouldn’t there be a little gratitude sprinkled in there? It was clear that Bieber doesn’t think he owes his fans anything. He treated them like a nuisance.
Bieber started the show in a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey and a matching blue bandana covering most of his newly shaved head. It was very Timberlake circa 2001. After opening with Mark My Words and an unenthusiastic Where Are U Now, Justin disappeared for a couple songs while his dancers seemed to be stalling. When he came back, he was literally in a glass box for I’ll Show You that seemed to be a metaphor for feeling like a “zoo animal.” Those are Justin’s words, not mine. Remember when he cancelled his meet and greets because he was too “mentally and emotionally exhausted” to take pics with fans? Well, the entire vibe of the show was exhaustion. Even with a five-piece band, a DJ and 12 backup dancers, the whole thing lacked energy. The rare moment Justin addressed fans, he told a bizarre story about how he’s a “seven-snooze button kind of guy” because he doesn’t like getting out of bed in the morning. I think we should be worried. When I texted Lainey about Bieber’s behavior, she wrote back “touring is not good for his mental health.” He’s supposed to have seven months left of the tour. SEVEN. I don’t think he’s going to make it.
At one point, Justin attempted a drum solo but it seemed off and he ended it by saying to the band (not the crowd, we basically didn’t exist to him), “I just couldn’t catch my vibe.” My friend Meghan was at the show last night. She said it was more of the same except the drum solo was a bit smoother. The only highlight for me was his stripped down acoustic performance of Love Yourself and an outfit that involved a kilt, leggings and a Wu-Tang t-shirt that was actually really working for me.
Justin didn’t even look like he was having fun when he was jumping on a trampoline suspended over the audience during Company. His only fan interaction involved him berating a fan for not living in the moment while he was trying to give her a water bottle.
Here’s the thing: the screams were still deafening. The girls were still losing their minds over him. If you’re Bieber and you can go out on stage during your two HOMETOWN SHOWS and give a lackluster performance but still hear people chanting your name just as loud as they normally do, what’s the incentive to bring it?
Attached - Bieber out in Philadelphia while on tour earlier this month.