About a dozen songs into his sold-out show at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Canadian megastar Justin Bieber told the crowd of about 60,000, “I never thought I’d be on this stage — the SkyDome,” as the stadium was called when he was growing up.
The pop singer also joked, “I never thought I’d wear leather pants, but here I am wearing leather pants,” since it was an apt lead-in to his next song, “Never Say Never.”
But on this Believe Tour, playing back-to-back sold-out nights at such esteemed arenas as New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Rogers Centre is a whole other league.
Who would’ve thought, in this day and age, that another bonafide stadium act would come along? The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, Springsteen play the Rogers Centre — Backstreet Boys/NKOTB can too, but that’s two generations of boy bands filling those seats. Bieber is an 18-year-old pop star with just two original studio albums to his name and the stadium was filled to the top 500 level.
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That type of accomplishment does not come without years of hard work — yes, years; by 13 Bieber had taught himself to play drums, guitar, piano and trumpet and uploaded videos of himself singing R&B tracks to YouTube. It didn’t hurt that the kid was Teen Beat cute. Enter Scooter Braun, who stumbled across these clips in 2008 and tracked Bieber down in Stratford, Ontario. Barely a teenager, he soon signed with Usher and Braun’s newly formed joint-venture RBMG, which did a deal that October with Island Records.
What has followed has indeed been a whirlwind trajectory for the singer, just as high as any performer can go, but Bieber is not an overnight sensation or a flash-in-the-pan. Watching him work the massive Rogers Centre stage, left, right, the runway, the different levels, reaching out through his postures, gestures and energy to every kid in that venue, he was all pro. He sang, he danced, he played guitar, he sang a capella, he rapped, he danced some more. Amazing to think he is just 18.
The set — over 20 songs if you count the medley of “One Time,” “Eenie Meenie” and “Somebody To Love” — began with “All Around The World” and Bieber asking “Toronto, are you ready to go on an adventure with me?” Oh, and they were. The screams were a dead giveaway. Supported by a crack live band and dance troupe, he performed for more than 100 minutes — which included a visit from hometown rap star Drake for two songs, “Right Here” and “The Motto” — giving the crowd “As Long As You Love Me,” “One Less Lonely Girl,” “Believe,” “Beauty and a Beat,” and, of course, “Baby,” among others.
For all the Bieber haters out there, consider this next time you scoff or roll your eyes at the mention of this pop star: the stadium was filled with young people, some as young as three-year-old Fericka Laflèche whose mom said it was her first concert. Through Bieber, these kids are being exposed to real musicians, real singers and real talent. Perhaps some of those kids will want a guitar for Christmas or to take piano lessons or start investigating other music.
Bieber is helping to groom the next generation of music lovers.
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