Justin Bieber Is in Full Command of His Pop-Star Powers at Toyota Center

Justin Bieber
Toyota Center
April 9, 2016

Just after 9 p.m. Saturday, Justin Bieber emerged from underneath the stage that had been fashioned for his Houston performance. Shrill screams filled the Toyota Center, all but drowning out the singer-songwriter’s breathy crooning.

Enclosed in a glass box, he was raised a good 30 feet above the stage, where he scribbled on the transparent walls as he implored fans to mark his words, promising to give them his all.

By the end of the song, Bieber had returned underground, only to re-emerge moments later with four backup dancers in tow. Four eventually became 12, with fireworks and flashing lights supplementing their performance of "Where Are U Now."

It was then that the tinnitus kicked in, and my girlfriend and I decided we needed earplugs.

Bieber was later fenced in by what looked like an MMA cage, inside which he performed "I'll Show You," one of the young artist's most honest and introspective songs. Comparing his life to a movie, he sang of his own humanity and imperfections while lamenting the difficulties of attaining fame at a young age and constantly being in the public eye.

Sensual belly dancers and aerial acrobats followed the moment of reflection, with electro-pop star Halsey’s face broadcast on the backing screen during "The Feeling."

Backup dancers later donned Tron-like body suits for "Boyfriend" before Bieber turned it down a notch for acoustic performances of "Home to Mama" and "Love Yourself."

"Company" was preceded by a humble-brag about the companionship afforded to the singer-songwriter when he’s feeling lonely on tour, followed by the manifestation of an elevated trampoline, where Bieber and his crew danced and did flips above the crowd.

Adolescent dancers were brought onstage for "Children," and Bieber even went as far as to tell attendees, "If you don’t like children, I don’t like you." The kids received as much raucous applause as the star of the evening, with each of them greeted, high-fived and hugged by the Canadian pop artist.

Bieber — who had visited the Galleria earlier Saturday, even dancing with an HPD officer — ended his performance with "Sorry," complete with a waterfall that left his entire ensemble dripping wet, pretty much forcing him to remove his shirt to avoid catching a cold. (It was just about then that my tinnitus kicked back in.)

Following in the footsteps of his mentor Usher, Bieber’s performance was just as much about dancing and showmanship as it was about music. And though he made time for "Baby," the adolescent anthem that propelled him to prominence in 2010, the rest of his repertoire spoke for itself Saturday night.

Relying heavily on last year’s Purpose, Biebs displayed the range of an artist closing in on perfecting his sound, one that is far superior to his youthful offerings.

After experiencing one of the most awkward adolescences of any pop star in recent memory, Bieber was bound to grow up some time. If his latest music and Saturday night’s show serve as any indication, he's headed in the right direction.

Mark My Words
Where Are U Now
Get Used To It
I'll Show You
The Feeling
Home to Mama (acoustic)
Love Yourself (acoustic)
Been You
No Sense
Hold Tight
No Pressure
As Long As You Love Me
Drum solo/We Will Rock You (Queen cover)
Life Is Worth Living
What Do You Mean
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever