Last night, Justin Bieber headlined the Essex leg of V Festival. His first UK festival set arrived at the end of a typically tumultuous week for Canadian megastar, as he deleted his Instagram account amid cheating claims from ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez. There were rumours that he wouldn’t even show up for the set at all, but his shockingly punctual headline set was packed with controversy, thrilling moments and the odd bit of onstage banter. Here’s what we learned from Justin Bieber’s V Festival set.
The Purpose tour doesn’t translate well at a festival
First off, we were promised a spectacle. According to reports in the run up, there were rumours that Bieber would be bringing 800 gallons of water to Hylands Park, Chelmsford for his soaking finale – but they were nowhere to be seen. On several occasions, Bieber would mount a huge platform at the very back of stage, which left many disgruntled fans craning their necks for a decent view – a setup which far benefits the good views of an arena. The ‘Purpose’ Tour has also been well documented for being an extravagant bonanza full of flames and fireworks, all of which were rationed out and scarcely seen in this set.
Read more: Justin Bieber: The Full NME Cover Story
It was a cathartic experience for him
The 2015 album ‘Purpose’ saw Bieber be accepted as a credible pop star. However, it hasn’t come without its fair share of drama. Cuts from the album such as ‘Company’ and ‘I’ll Show You’ demonstrates a singer at his most open and confessional, and at one point from the stage he described the touring experience as “tough sometimes” and that he misses his family. It’s tough being Justin Bieber, it seems.
Bieber sounds best stripped back
Surprisingly, for a pop star with an expanding repertoire of club bangers, it was the quiet moments that seemed to resonate best with the crowd. As the set reached its halfway point, Bieber dropped the light show and dancers, opting to go back-to-basics with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone. His version of Major Lazer collaboration ‘Cold Water’ was stripped back to an emotional heavyweight, and ‘Purpose’s finest moment, ‘Love Yourself’, had nearly the entire field in the palm of his hand.
He’s not quite nailed the festival chatter
Bieber arrived on stage after a spellbinding set from Sia, not known for her on-stage banter, so it’s not like he had to do much to match her level of audience engagement. But it still felt a little forced when he did try to engage with crowd. Before ‘Life Is Worth Living’, he tried his hand at the banter that can make or break a festival set and the crowd were having none of it. “Has anyone tried that pizza place? What about that Steakhouse Burger? Oh, fish and chips, we should try and get some of those”, he said to a largely uninterested crowd as he haplessly scanned the field and its surrounding food stalls for some inspiration. As the speech dragged on, the largely loyal fans even started to get restless, with groans and a few boos emerging. It didn’t really help that he kept calling Chelmsford, ‘London’, despite it being 40 miles outside of town.
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He’s not ready for festivals
Put simply, Bieber just isn’t a bankable festival headliner. His shockingly poor attempt to conceal his miming in places (which his camp have denied) and the admittance that he was ‘hungover’ isn’t quite the way to endear yourself to bookers and fans alike. The big hits, such as the pounding ‘Where Are Ü Now?’, What Do You Mean?’ and his anthem ‘Sorry’ were thrilling, but few and far between. The crowd were urging Bieber to stop talking and get on with playing the hits, but the brutal fact is, he hasn’t got enough of them just yet.