Justin Bieber – review

O2, London

Superstars of Justin Bieber's magnitude are usually models of professionalism, but for the first of his four sold-out London shows he's two hours late. He finally appears at 10.20pm without an apology, many of his school-age fans having already been carted off home by fulminating parents. And this, just after the "worst birthday" debacle that saw his friends turned away from a nightclub. The album playing over the PA as the crowd waited was Thriller. Is fame getting to the teen heartthrob like it did to his hero Michael Jackson?

Actually, there are no signs of meltdown from Bieber tonight, just 90 minutes of well-oiled machine melody and slick manoeuvres. There is an impressive interplay between stage and screens: at one point, he dives towards the floor, only to re-emerge as a video version of himself, underwater.

Equally remarkable are the tinnitus-inducing screams, although for the record there are males in the audience, some of them fully grown. The screams start as Bieber appears like an angel with huge silver wings. He floats down over the audience, but when he lands during the cybernetic hip-hop pop of All Around the World, to prove he's no cherub, he grabs his crotch. How he can find said nether region in those MC Hammer-baggy pants is anyone's guess. The DJ, MC and full band setup give weight to the idea of Bieber as part-rap bad boy, part-rock kid; the power chords underpinning Never Say Never make it sound like grunge&B.

The message he's keen to telegraph is that he's not the Auto-cutie any more. He's a man, with a man's haircut, a man's body – which he teasingly reveals at strategic points – and a man's voice. While he may be the world's biggest male pop star, however, he's more phenomenon than icon. Still, it's possible that, once he truly absorbs the madness of his celebrity, he will become as characterful as he is popular.

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Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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