Such is the scrutiny that surrounds a pop star like Justin Bieber that you suspect heading off on a globe trotting tour provides, a healthy deposit in his bank balance aside, an opportunity to escape the madness and live in a protective bubble for a while – surrounded by an inner circle and never in one place long enough to attract unwanted attention (unless of course you decide to go for lunch next to a girls’ school in Maynooth). In fact, the only response you should be getting is the unfiltered love of thousands of people every night. And boy does he get that in Dublin. It’s like being at a giant GAA disco, except that there are hardly any lads, and the levels of excitement don’t reduce with age. Indeed, it appears the odd drop of alcohol definitely enhances the scream quotient.
Thus, when our hero appears alongside projections of the statue of David (no illusions of grandeur here) the expected pandemonium erupts a burst of energy shoots through every inch of the RDS, except one important section – the stage. Actually that’s not entirely fair; the band are giving it socks. In fact the only person who looks as though he’d rather been anywhere else than here is the main attraction. Opener ‘Mark My Words’ is a slowie so we can forgive him not bursting out of the traps but even so his languid demeanour is a bit of a surprise. Hands in pockets and constantly fiddling with his head mic, he cuts the appearance of a cab driver waiting for a call to come in on his bluetooth headset. Things don’t get any better as ‘Where Are Ü Now’ kicks off, with the singer more interested in playing around with what looks to be a branded butcher’s apron.
This, unfortunately, sets the tone for an evening that is bafflingly dull. Joined by a set of over enthusiastic dancers and moved around the stage for various set pieces (including singing ‘I’ll Show You’ in a giant cage for some reason), Bieber never looks anything than completely disinterested. Things reach a nadir during the acoustic set that served him so well at the Manchester One Love show. It’s musically great and the mass singalong that greats ‘Love Yourself’ is genuinely touching. His response is to let the audience finish the song and walk to the back of the stage without a hint of recognition of what just happened.
None of this is to say that the show doesn’t contain a number of absolute pop belters, after all he needed some serious tunes to bring his career back from the brink of scandal and meltdown. It’s just that he himself seems totally superfluous to it all. We’re surrounded by gangs of girls clearly having the time of their lives but largely oblivious to what’s happening across the arena – more intent on filming every moment of their night on their phone than engaging in the process of a live performance, such that is. Mind you we’ve never seen a drum solo get such a reaction as Justin’s unexpected and completely unnecessary bashing around on a kit raised high above the stage. It certainly gets everyone ramped up for a closing run of hits that reaches an undoubted high point when he acknowledges his previous life and ‘Baby’ gets everyone singing into their mobiles with gusto.
Ultimately it probably doesn’t matter that this has been a decidedly average experience, that there are those who craft a pop show of this stature and put their personal heart and soul into performance (please hurry back Taylor). Those who came have had a night out with their mates – bonding over some great songs, laughing in the sunshine and dancing in the rain. They’ll have blurry, distorted memories to share but, really, they deserve better than this.