March 20, 2016 in Concert Buds, Editorials, Live Music by

Concert Buds: 10 Take-aways From Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ Northwest

Dearest Concert Buds,

At this very moment I am writing this article from the depths of my post-concert depression (PCD). More specifically, my post-Bieber-concert depression. When it comes to writing about or discussing the ‘Purpose’ tour/album, it’s difficult to begin. You see, I became a hardcore Bieber fan wayyyy before it was socially acceptable. Ever since I first heard “One Time” and that distinctly golden voice on the radio in 2009, I have always looked ahead to what was next for JB. And because I’ve always believed him to be the most comparable male sensation to the Beatles, Elvis or Michael Jackson for my generation, I jumped aboard the Belieber train promptly and without hesitation…even though he and his voice still had some maturing to do. I wanted to be there for it all, and decided to follow his career from the very beginning. I now consider myself one of his most dedicated fans.

So when news broke that JB’s ‘Purpose’ tour would kick-off in the Pacific Northwest after a two year break from the stage and unofficial “apology tour”, I was fully prepared to follow him. Especially because of what happened with Believe tour: I ended up seeing ‘Believe’ 9 times, meeting him 5 times, and making a couple handfuls of friends from his insanely solid fanbase. In December 2013 I flew my ass to LA for his ‘Believe’ Movie Premiere at Staples Center, and then again for his ‘Purpose’ Album Launch Party last November. Over the past five years I have spent thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars on travel and concert ticket expenses for this young man, and I have I put up with people’s judgments and teasing. I have defended Justin when the public crucified him for his mistakes, and I have turned countless friends and family members on to his music.

When writing articles about Justin in the past I always felt the need to disguise–or at least downplay–my Bieber fever. You know, for the sake of appearing unbiased and keeping at least some amount of my journalistic integrity intact. Now that it’s apparently cool to feel guilty about liking Bieber, I refuse to explain my reasons for loving him. These should be fairly obvious by now. Instead, I’d like to pretend you’re all up to speed and share some of my most predominant thoughts on his new tour. At this point I feel like I’ve already opened up to ya’ll WOHM readers enough to let my Belieber flag fly.

Even though I was likely to be pleased with anything JB did on tour (just seeing him at all is worth the $$$), I had high expectations for his performance quality and was eager to see how he’s grown as a person and an artist. I believed ‘Purpose’ was about to be some next level ish, and I was fully correct. I’m already missing that superior stage setup, spot-on setlist, and Justin’s rawness. So with no further adieu, here are 10 takeaways from the first three shows (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland) of Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ Tour:

The openers were great but…I’d rather see another 30 minutes of JB
An appropriately eclectic group of openers set just the right tone for the ‘Purpose’ tour, especially since Bieber’s newest pop album is laced with sounds ranging from R&B, EDM, hip-hop, acoustic guitar, and piano ballads. Corey Harper played a very calming all-acoustic set, while Moxie Raia brought fresh and soulful vocals, and an alternative-urban style to her set that instantly made me think of Kehlani. For Portland, Post Malone joined the bill and got the crowd on their feet with “White Iverson,” “Too Young,” and other similarly-vibed tracks. I truly did like the opening acts…they just seemed unnecessary. Considering that most of us paid a fortune for these tickets, we really just wanted to see Justin. He gets brownie points for putting on some promising new artists though.

His new band–especially his new lead guitarist–is truly kickass.
When longtime Twitter Beliebers found out that Justin’s OG guitarist Dan Kanter would not be coming along for the ‘Purpose’ tour, it was a worldwide trend (#ThankYouDanKanter) of crying emojis and depressed reaction gifs. For many of us, the changes to Justin’s crew marked the end of an era. That all being said, Julian Michael is a GREAT stand-in. Check out his guitar solo at the end of this heartfelt live version of “Purpose”.

Other newly added band members include keyboardist Nolan Frank, bassist and musical director B Harv, and drummer Devon Taylor. As sad as it may be that the #buslife family is changing, it’s awesome to see Justin give opportunities to a new slew of talented musicians.

The Bieber fanbase is expanding, ya’ll!
A friend of mine sent me a meme a couple days ago that said “who would have thought that by 2015 we’d all be beliebers?” My answer to this is: Um, I fucking did! Can we finally get over the stereotype that all Justin Bieber fans are extremely young, usually white females? I saw a lot more males this time around — A LOT. And I’m not just talking men playing escort to their girlfriends, I’m talking groups of men. (I did have to deal with a couple of exceedingly cross-faded bros in Vancouver who continued to be obnoxious, creepy, and destructive during the entirety of the show. If this is you, please find another outlet to be obnoxious and promote rape culture…Or don’t!) Also, while there were still plenty of youths in attendance, the new fanbase is an overall more ‘adult’ crowd, partly because many of Bieber’s fans have grown up with him, and partly because his new sound transcends age. I saw lots of women over the age of 30 who were attending the show without children, because it’s “okay” to like him now; he’s a fully grown man who’s making the best music of his life. Regardless of my bitterness towards all the hater-turned-belieber converts, I’m actually very proud and pleased to see Justin’s fanbase expanding. It makes me even more excited to see where his career takes him me.

[A NOTE TO ALL THE NOOBS: Unless you are elderly, injured or disabled, do not come to a Justin Bieber concert and sit down. Since this is NOT a museum, you better be on your feet and making some sort of noise while the young king is on stage! Otherwise you will be ostracized. Sincerely, all die-hard Beliebers.]

In comparison to the Believe tour, Justin looked much more comfortable being himself on stage
No more hiding behind sunglasses or scripted segues! For a lack of a better phrase, Justin has come into his own. Instead of giving audiences the exact same verbal cues in between songs, he spoke his mind in the moment, which was different at each of the three shows I attended. At the Vancouver show Justin repeated one of his recurring messages: “be yourself” to the crowd four times in a row. “Do you know how many people say bad things about me because I choose to be myself, because I choose to be different?”  His playful energy was infectious and addictive, and he has always stayed true to his positive message. But what I was most happy to see was that Justin seemed to be a freer version of himself. Still trying to live up to his role model expectation, ‘Purpose’ focuses on themes of self discovery, forgiveness, individuality, but also desire and affection. Rather than succumbing to whatever formula would garner the highest approval rating, Justin did what he wanted, said what he wanted, and wore what he wanted–including a kilt paired with a Marilyn Manson tee that read “Bigger Than Satan Bieber” on the back. I would like to purchase this shirt.

Bieber has bossed up!
This time around he’s three years older, and seems to have learned how to be the boss man on his own damn tour.  At one point Bieber sat down for his acoustic set, and I noticed it was taking him a bit longer than usual to tune his guitar. “You guys need to tune my guitar before you give it to me,” he said in deadpan. Yessuh! At each show I watched as he commanded the crowd (and his crew) with little effort, and hundreds raised their hands to worship the ground that he walked on. And speaking of worship, ‘Purpose’ revolves around a blatant expression of Justin’s renewed spirituality. Framed by a backdrop of digital imagery with biblical undertones, his on-stage persona reflects his own perception of himself: a modern day prophet, skater, Christ-follower, lover, hard-working musician. His tour merchandise similarly fuses crucifixes and Godliness with a grungy, rockband aesthetic.

Less choreographed dancing (and lip-synching) than Believe tour
For the dance-y songs that required his active participation (“What Do You Mean,” “Sorry,” and “Where Are U Now”) Justin did lean on a backing track. However, for much of the show, he left the heavy choreography up to the dancers so he could focus more on his singing. (Lucky for me, these were the first three shows of the tour so his vocal chords were the opposite of tired.) His stunning vocal is most evident on slowed-down tracks like “Life is Worth Living,” ‘Purpose,’ and “Hold Tight.” Rather than tying Justin up with choreography, the dancers act as a visual component for each song’s message and free-up our man for more ad-libbed dancing (adorable)! This creative choice was foreshadowed in the dance-centric music video series “Purpose: The Movement” which was released at Bieber’s album launch party in November. I approve.

JustinTrampoline_Seattle

Justin Bieber in Seattle performing his single “Company” on levitating trampoline stage. Photo by Jenni Moore

‘Purpose’ tour continues to showcase Justin’s many natural talents
In Seattle he sang ‘Purpose’ while playing piano, but he has since scratched that component and I’m not sure why. His drum solo segment continued to be one of my favorite parts, and it was extra-extra long at the Portland show. I’m just thankful I got to see him play his three instruments, and hear his voice at its freshest. From doing flips on his levitating trampoline, to some especially sensual moves with ginger-haired backup dancer, Aubrey Storm, Justin seemed to be having a lot of fun demonstrating his abilities. I was also very pleased that Portland was the best show of the three, both in terms of Justin’s performance and the crowd’s energy.

Justin Gets Spontaneous and Random
I remember that during the Believe Tour he would often say the exact same things to the crowd at almost every show, with little variation. He would do little random things here and there, but for the most part he was held to a tightly choreographed routine. I loved that for each of the first three ‘Purpose’ tour shows he has switched things up a bit, and he has continued that tradition at his Cali dates as well. After seeing the very first show in Seattle, I was slightly bummed to see that the OLLG tradition was toast. I understood why he might not want to perform that teeny-bopper song anymore, but why couldn’t he choose a different song for a serenade? Or maybe surprise a fan in another way? I needed something to hope for. Much to my adoration, Justin brought back the tradition for the Vancouver show by hand-choosing a lonely lady from the first few rows and singing “One Less Lonely Girl” to the surprised fan during his acoustic set. He didn’t include this part in Portland, but instead premiered a brand new song “Insecurities” by performing it live for the first time. He also spent a good five minutes laying down on stage, just chatting with the audience about everything from why he didn’t sleep the night before, and how he was going to go trout fishing the next day.

And I was dead.

J goes out of his way to connect with individuals and make each show memorable
Homeboy gets an A+ for fan interaction. Regardless of if you’re a casual fan or hardcore belieber, Justin is undeniably one of the most charismatic artists alive. I imagine it would be difficult for anyone to attend one of his shows and not be thoroughly entertained by the mania. Say what you will about his lack of smiles in meet and greets–I personally relate to his resting bitch face–but Justin already spends so much of his time and energy taking selfies with people, being photographed, and dealing with crowds. Even though I didn’t get to see/meet him outside the shows this time around, he made up for it by making each show feel super intimate and memorable. I felt closer to him just from experiencing the concert, which I think is his goal. It’s cool to see all the fan-taken videos from the shows because you can see the effort he makes to touch as many people as possible.

Photo by Jenni Moore

Justin Bieber performing “Children” at his Purpose tour in Seattle. Photo by Jenni Moore

 

Followers to Friends
Something I’ve always loved about this fanbase is how easy it is to bond and build friendships with other fans. It really is one of the best parts of being a Belieber. Often times I’ll connect with people via Twitter or Facebook, and then end up meeting IRL at a show. I’ve even planned trips and shared hotel rooms with people I’ve originally connected with from social media. While in Vancouver I linked up with a follower of mine named Jess who traveled all the way from London to see Justin’s first three shows in the PNW. We were waiting outside Justin’s hotel in Vancouver when she recognized me from my Twitter avi. We had formal introductions and then boom–we became allies. We met up again in Portland, and ended up spending an entire day together. We shared two meals, spent hours fangirling and doing shenanigans, and even ended up buying seats together for the Portland show that night. After discussing our different journeys with Bieber (which cities I’d seen him in versus what COUNTRIES she’d seen him in), I became inspired to take my personal fandom further–literally. By the time the Rose Garden doors were opening I had already decided that this was the year I would use ‘Purpose’ as an excuse to travel oversees. In addition to seeing him this Summer in Indianapolis and Nashville (two places I have  never been), I will also visit Paris and possibly Tokyo to see ‘Purpose’. I know that a lot of my friends continue to think I’m crazy for spending so much of my time, energy, and hard-earned money on seeing Justin-MFing-Bieber, but there’s nothing that compares to the thrill of getting closer to him while also exploring new places and meeting new people. It’s a truly unique experience that has brought me so many priceless memories.

————-

I now realize how silly I was to think that three shows would be enough for me. This is the type of ride I need to experience over and over, until the wheels fall off.

*Sigh* I think it’s time for a tattoo.

 

 

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