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Justin Bieber’s “Justice Tour” At Barclay Center, Friday, June 3rd, 2022 Reviewed

Justin Bieber at Barclay Center last night (June 3rd, 2022) was the most professional arena show you will ever see, it is the antithesis of Haim’s self immolation at MSG in May (here). Haim opened the proceedings with two opening acts at 730pm and didn’t get on stage till 950pm, Justin’s first act Teo arrived at 715pm, was followed by Harry Hudson and Jaden Smith, and Justin still reached the stage by 830pm. This level of organization is a gift to the fans before the set has even started. When he hits the stage, the thrill is amplified by knowing you aren’t gonna be stuck doing nothing for nearly the length of the show.

It helps that the openers were very good, two up and comers and the scion of the slapper, Jaden Smith. Teo got ten minutes and wasted some of it discussing his brother (who had appeared on “Hannah Montana”) and while Teo has been searching for success since 2018 he comes across super fresh mix of r&b and a side of bossa nova, and while the three songs were all good, his song (with Jaden) “Uno Dios” didn’t show. Harry Hudson, the singer songwriter and a friend of Jaden as well, performed a stressless fifteen minutes with a guitarist and then Jaden Smith gave us half an hour. This was seamless stuff, the huge, empty stage had one artist follow the other with Jaden outing himself as bisexual and performing his jagged r&b experiments and rote performance antics. I haven’t seen Jaden since 2019 where he was less experienced but more straight up fun, maybe heterosexuality doesn’t suit him!

Ten minute (yes, not even fifteen minutes!!!) later, Justin Bieber arrived to lay down one of the best shows he has given us to date. I wrote this the last time I saw Justin on stage, back in 2016 (here): “Bieber did many things right, they just weren’t musical things. He came on stage early, he wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t sloppy, he was disinterested to distraction, but he hit his spots” And word from the Justice tour drifted down that it was a continuing problem, even in Toronto. That wasn’t true yesterday, armed with a fantastic setlist, overflowing with smash hits from “Baby” to his latest single “Attention”, with color coordinated stage floors, huge screens, and an array of showstoppers including an airplane and an elevating stage, Bieber was at the top of his game. And while there was a whole lotta virtue signaling (he doesn’t like mass murderers, approves of God), hey the kids could hear it at least…

The stars aligned perfect for Justin with a huge current album, Justice (seven hit singles and counting) and adulthood there with his wife and, er, his God, JC though you were welcome to bring your own, he wasn’t the crotch grabbing eighteen year old at all. The set was grown up pop for girls (and the occasional guy) ages 10 to 30. And they lapped it up. It was one long highlight reel with “Holy” a MSG shaking singalong where the religious and secular love come together, an early breathtaking and one of his best songs “Intentions” leading us out. We could have done without the proselytizing at the top of the encore (and after the Hillsong debacle…) but if that is the price to hear “Peaches”we will take it. The quiet songs, a “Love Yourself” drowned out from start to finish by the audience, were not pee breaks, and the bangers, as Justin lead a dozen dancers, were perfect.

That end of the concert before the encore was the best I’ve ever seen Bieber, from the magical “Intentions” through the excellent “Attention” (new to the set -just dropped in March) with surprise guest (it is Justin who is the featured artist on the recording) Nigerian Afro-Fusion prince Omah Lay performing without rehearsal (“if it sucks, it’s on me” finds Bieber completely off script) followed by early “Boyfriend” and the “Baby” of a lifetime.

A perfect set, the best I’ve seen the Biebs since he was fifteen years of age and one of those rare gigs that has a moment that just sticks with you, an example would be Aretha Franklin performing “Sparkle” at Radio City in 2009 (here), and now add Biebs and the fans serenading the hold mes and holys. We all have our gods to bear and whatever yours might be that was ours last night.

Grade: A

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