Goodbye, Boss; hello, Biebs.
Less than 24 hours after Bruce Springsteen ended his much-discussed three-night stand at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (which closed the joint for good late Saturday night), Justin Bieber took the stage at Staples Center on Sunday to kick off an extended engagement no less talked about by his fans.
And in a way they weren’t all that different, with each gig starring a handsome, hard-working guy singing about struggle and hope. Bieber even wore several faded rock T-shirts, as though he were signaling to the many dads accompanying their pre-teen daughters that they were welcome too.
As the Sports Arena was for Springsteen, Staples is familiar ground for Bieber, who’s performed there many times (including a curious record-release event for last year’s “Purpose”) and who famously rented the place in 2011 for a movie night with his then-girlfriend Selena Gomez.
Yet Sunday’s concert, the first of three this week, was the only time I can recall seeing the singer bounce on a trampoline suspended over the heads of the audience. I’ll have a full review later, but for now here are five quick thoughts on the show.
1. Those T-shirts were kind of amazing. From the front they looked like classic thrift-store finds picturing Metallica, 2Pac and Marilyn Manson (with whom Bieber posed for a selfie that quickly went viral Saturday night). On the back, though, each featured Bieber’s name in a spiky heavy-metal font that gave the shirt a kind of found-art feel. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the tees for sale in the merch booths at Staples, though there was one emblazoned with a bit of biblical knowledge: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is God’s purpose that prevails.”
2. Bieber brought out two surprise guests Sunday to the delight of the capacity crowd. First, Big Sean appeared to do his verse from “No Pressure.” Then Chance the Rapper turned up for “Confident,” a cut from Bieber’s 2013 album, “Journals.” Both cameos were quick, which only underscored their intended impact: Here’s a pop star big enough that two high-profile MCs will schlep downtown just to put in 90 seconds with him onstage. (Springsteen, in comparison, produced no rappers.)
3. “Confident” wasn’t the only oldie Bieber played. Though the concert focused heavily on material from “Purpose,” he made time for “Boyfriend,” “Baby,” “Hold Tight” and “As Long as You Love Me,” which for some reason didn’t feature Big Sean in the flesh even though it came directly after “No Pressure.” Maybe he’d already left the building.
4. Bieber flexed his musician’s chops several times, first in an acoustic segment that had him strumming a guitar for “Love Yourself,” “Home to Mama” and a new, vaguely Jason Mraz-ish tune apparently titled “Insecurities.” Later, he sat behind a drum kit and bashed out a serviceable solo as a moving platform lifted him toward the ceiling.
5. The trampoline was pretty neat. Hung for most of the show high above the crowd, it lowered during “Company,” at which point Bieber and his dancers climbed on and proceeded to do a series of backflips. Another impressive set piece was the show’s finale, “Sorry,” which re-created Bieber’s rain-drenched performance from November’s American Music Awards. Who needs “The River” when you've got a wall of water?