By Nick Parkhouse
There’s a scene in Justin Bieber’s recent film, Never Say Never, in which he is described as ‘a regular kid who had a dream and it came true’.
The dream, of course, was to become a singing sensation and after being discovered through a series of YouTube videos, the Canadian teenager was signed to Usher’s record label. The rest, as they say, is history.
Rising onto the Capital FM Arena stage to a cacophony of noise, the 17-year-old looked every bit the world’s biggest pop superstar.
And, as he raced through up-tempo hits including Bigger and Love Me, he began to show off his not unimpressive moves and vocal skills.
What Bieber’s PR does a poor job of getting across is that he is actually a pretty talented musician. Singing with just a guitar or piano as accompaniment was what got Bieber noticed, and it was these moments that provided the highlight of the show.
Playing drums on a cover of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way, piano on the enchanting Down To Earth and guitar on Never Let You Go and Favourite Girl show Bieber at his best and remind us that he’s got plenty of musical talent in the locker.
He can clearly play and he can certainly sing.
Quite why the show was therefore so insistent on suffocating the teenager with showbiz, I am not sure.
There was barely a moment when there weren’t dozens of people on stage alongside Bieber. A dizzying array of dancers, musician, guests and backing singers joined the throng and what this actually managed to do was dilute Bieber’s star quality.
This was best illustrated with the regular and annoying distraction of a scattering of Will Smith’s offspring: Willow performed a short set including mega hit Whip My Hair whilst Jaden popped on and off stage at random – confusing, not enhancing, the spectacle.
You got the distinct impression that Bieber’s people think it necessary to provide him with constant support when what really stood out was when he reverted to the gimmick-less, talented kid millions of us watched online.
Bieber is clearly already a massive superstar. And, for the purposes of this event he could have walked on stage and sang the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses for all that his largely female crowd would have cared.
For most it was the chance to see their idol up close and personal, and, for 90 minutes, he did everything that his fans could have expected of him.
Tellingly, though, it was during a performance of Michael Jacksons Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ that the challenge facing Bieber became clear.
Namely: if he wants to be anything more than 2011’s passing fad, he needs to improve his material.
Whilst it’s easy to see the star quality in the Canadian, the reason Jackson sold hundreds of millions of albums was because he wrote some of the generation’s finest pop records.
If Bieber is to take the next step and become a genuine megastar, you can’t help feeling that he is going to have to up his game.
Saying that, after an hour and a half in the company of their hero, I don’t imagine that the most expectant and noisy crowd I’ve ever experienced at a gig will give two hoots about that.
Love Me, Bigger, U Smile, Runaway Love, Never Let You Go, Favourite Girl, One Less Lonely Girl, Somebody To Love, Never Say Never, Up, One Time, That Should Be Me, Wanna Be Startin’ Something’, Walk This Way, Eenie Meenie, Down To Earth, Baby.