Photos by Minh Tran.
Photos by Minh Tran.

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Playing to a packed arena of screaming on-fleek millennials, Justin Bieber’s Moda Center concert on Sunday night was a dance party of teenage dreams, replete with Tron-like visuals, smoke plumes, rising cubes, and a built-in skateboard ramp. The pop star has been known as much for his music as his public stumbling, growing up in the spotlight since first being discovered by Usher as a preteen. Fittingly, he began his set by rising up in a glass box, decked by Grecian statues, as if proclaiming his self awareness of the Adonis-like status he lives with, forever watched inside a glass house even as he's recently sought to rehab his image.

Bieber moved through his set with an intensity that was reflective of the start of a tour: still trying to get it down, a bit wooden, often missing his lip-sync cues, but nonetheless full of high energy. He was flanked by a bevy of acrobatic dancers dressed in flannels and jean shorts, who used the full spectrum of the stage, sliding down banks, hanging from aerials, and breaking down hip-hop inspired moves. Bieber kept primarily to the material from his latest release, Purpose, with throwbacks to his biggest hits, “Boyfriend,” “Baby,” and “As Long as You Love Me.”

Keeping with his '90s theme, in the second half Bieber stepped out in a long Marilyn Manson T-shirt and flannel with the words, “Bigger than Satan... Bieber” emblazoned on the back. After a high-energy first half, he brought it down a notch with his guitar and led a sing-along to “Love Yourself” on a couch that looked like it belonged in his mom’s basement—before bringing it back up, literally, with a floating trampoline followed by a prolonged drum solo on a rising platform at the front of the stage.

Bieber elicited the biggest screams of the evening as he laid down on the stage as if to take a nap, admitting that he “didn’t sleep last night, I was ragin', ragers. I’m going trout fishing tomorrow, maybe rehydrate.” He did indeed rehydrate during the final song of his set, “Sorry,” with a cascade of water from the front of the stage giving him a chance to take off his shirt and finally lighten up, showing the first glint of pleasure in the evening. For the man in the glass house, Bieber still appeared afraid to completely shatter the walls, but it was a step in the right direction.

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Support The Portland Mercury

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