Justin Bieber made a surprise appearance Tuesday at the first of Taylor Swift's four sold-out shows at Staples Center. Bieber and four dancers took to the stage about two-thirds of the way through Swifts two-hour-plus concert, accompanied by four dancers.
"Who wants to see my friend Justin?," Swift asked the nearly 15,000 fans in attendance. In what appeared to be a well-rehearsed routine, Bieber and Swift tore through his hit "Baby," which she performed at concerts in Montreal and Toronto in July.
Swift's other cover song of the night was inspired by the locale: the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," which she sang on a second stage located at the rear of the venue. Swift has developed a particular fondness of Los Angeles, having recently purchased a home in the city, and noted that the response she has received when playing Staples Center has been "life changing."
Her current show has one of the most elaborate sets of any act working in pop music today. It opens as a palatial theater, adds a homey front porch element and for "Speak Now" becomes a church interior for an elaborate wedding ceremony that's equal parts "Hairspray" and "The Graduate." As the evening progresses, and Swift changes from one ball gown to the another with the occasional sheer dress thrown in, the settings become increasingly fairy tale-like; at the show's conclusion, which involved bell ringing, images of spider webs, ballet dancers and acrobats, the night went deep into Cirque du Soleil territory.
The overwhelming visuals took the attention away from the arrangements executed with icy precision by her 10-piece band. In concert, the country elements have been stripped away from Swift's music, taking her into a pop realm that seems to be hers and hers alone. While it certainly connects with her younger fans, all of which seemed to know at least the choruses to every song, there's a sameness to much of her material, especially in the first 45 minutes of the show. Running through the crowd to get to the second stage, playing the ukulele and a tete-a-tete with Bieber helped ramp up the second half.
Swift, almost to the halfway mark of her North American tour that ends Nov. 21 and 22 at Madison Square Garden, performs Aug. 24, 27 and 28 at Staples.