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Justin Bieber makes his Salt Lake City fans ‘beliebers’

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(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) Justin Bieber performs to a sold-out crowd at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City on January 5, 2013.

BY DAVID BURGER

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 05 2013 10:07PM
Updated May 5, 2013 11:32PM

Do you want to know something?

Justin Bieber in concert is not, as you might have guessed, terrible.

I didn’t contract Bieber Fever — but, rather, tinnitus — but it was clear from the get-go that the 18-year-old singer poured every ounce of his slim frame into delivering a Saturday night performance that his young fans (many of whom were at their first concert) will call their favorite concert ever.

At least until British boy band One Direction arrives at the Maverik Center in July.

In front of a sold-out EnergySolutions Arena, Bieber opened the 2013 leg of his "Believe" tour by throwing down the pretentious gauntlet: clad in an all-white suit and black shades, Bieber came down from the rafters above the stage with a pair of silver wings.

His arrival onto the long catwalk came 70 long minutes after pleasant opener Carly Rae Jepsen finished her 25-minute set, and the preteens and teenagers who packed the arena were in a frenzy for the rest of the 90-minute show.

The song selection over the first half of the gleefully over-the-top theatrical extravaganza wasn’t spectacular by any means, with Bieber’s R&B-lite leanings overshadowed by bells, whistles, fireworks, smoke and mirrors as well as vocals that were more Auto-tuned than I would have liked.

But halfway into the concert, Bieber fully demonstrated his musicality with the tandem of "Be Alright" and "Fall," both accompanied by only acoustic guitars, one of them played convincingly by Bieber. Even though he was once again suspended 50 feet above the stage in a revolving crane that lofted him over the catwalk, it the first time all evening that he showed off his impressive, soulful vocal range and emotional vulnerability and — guess what? — a real-life, human personality.

After those slower songs, the rest of the set was pure pop sugar, and the show was the better for it, with break-neck, high energy renditions of his catchiest songs: "Never Say Never," "Beauty and a Beat" (which Bieber closed with him on the drums), "One less Lonely Girl," "As Long as You Love Me," and "Believe" (with Bieber on the piano). With 12 back-up dancers and three back-up singers, Bieber fed off on the blood-curdling shrieks that made much of the evening’s music indecipherable.

Bieber is a choreographed showman, which at times became irritating, especially when he would take a full five seconds to slowly remove his shades and nearly a minute to remove one of a number of jackets he wore. It whipped the girls into a frenzy every time.

Compounding the noise was Bieber’s D.J., who repeatedly implored the audience to "make some noise," although the audience was already plenty noisy. And, in one of the more uncomfortable moments, Bieber was shown on video physically attacking a corps of relentless paparazzi, although I had fresh memories of a photographer who was killed on New Year’s Day when chasing someone he thought was Bieber.

But in the end, Bieber provided the crowd with a visual spectacle that could be favorably compared to past EnergySolutions concerts from Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. It was a feast for the eyes that provided a little indigestion, but believe me or not, Bieber sweated his way to an entertaining, while not musically compelling, night.

In less than a month, Bieber will release his first acoustic album. At that point, we will get the chance to see if he shows signs of being the real deal, hopefully unadorned with girls’ squeals, digitally processed instruments and vocals, and pyrotechnics that blind and distract.

Maybe then he will make us believers.

dburger@sltrib.com Facebook.com/sltribmusic Twitter: @davidburger

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