It’s been three years since the world got its last Justin Bieber album. Now back, claiming to be stronger than ever, Bieber released his newest album Purpose on Friday (Nov. 13) and celebrated with An Evening With Justin Bieber at L.A.’s Staples Center, the first of a series of promotional events scheduled over the next week.
The event kicked off at 2:30 p.m. PT, as news was trickling in from Paris about a series of attacks, including a mass shooting at an Eagles of Death Metal concert in the city. While Bieber didn’t address the attacks onstage, he tweeted following the appearance to send “thoughts and prayers.”
He also let fans know via Twitter that the day’s second event at Staples Center, beginning at 6 p.m. PT, would also go on as planned (“to hopefully bring some light & hope to those hurting”). While leaving the venue, Billboard observed extra security and police arriving as a precautionary measure. (UPDATE: According to social media, Bieber led his fans in prayer for the victims of the Paris shootings at the 6 p.m. PT event.)
But fans didn’t have the Paris tragedy on their minds as they filed into Staples on Friday afternoon wearing official merch or homemade Bieber shirts and patiently (though loudly) hollering for their hero to arrive. When the JumboTron turned on and panned around the venue, sections erupted as their faces graced the screens. The noise was nothing compared to what happened when Bieber’s team appeared in the audience. The fans were so loud, manager Scooter Braun reached the stage and said, “I forgot how loud Bieber shows are.”
Braun then explained what the night would be: an intimate Q&A with Justin and a premiere of his Purpose: The Movement short dance film. Then the volume reached its peak when Bieber himself found his way to the stage. He sat down on the revolving structure and introduced Judah Smith, his pastor, who would be interviewing him.
“I felt like I lost my purpose for a while and I want to just be a light and let people know that whether you feel you don’t have a purpose, whether you feel like you’re just trying to figure it out, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Bieber said as he jumped straight into the Q&A with Smith’s question about the album name.
Smith asked some philosophical questions about Bieber’s outlook and perspective before ending by asking what advice he would give fans. “I would just say keep your head up and know the best is yet to come and I’m on the journey with you.”
Bieber then switched to a fan Q&A. His first question was a marriage proposal, to which he said, “Yes. I’m married now.” (Oh yeah?) He fielded more questions, almost all preceded by shouts of love. Most of them were about selfies, life advice, dream collabs (it’s Jay Z) and favorite Purpose track (“Mark My Words”). One question was a plea for a performance of some songs. Bieber seemed unplanned in his response, but the quick introduction of a guitarist implied maybe a performance was in the books the whole time.
The pair sat down and Bieber performed acoustic versions of “What Do You Mean?,” “Love Yourself,” “As Long as You Love Me,” “Sorry,” “One Less Lonely Girl” and “Where Are U Now.” During “Love Yourself,” Bieber momentarily forgot the lyrics, looking panicked but amused as he said, “I don’t know the words, do you know the words?” For the third song, Bieber began skateboarding around the small stage as he sang. He even put on a mocking voice as he said, “I went to a Justin Bieber concert and all he did was skateboard onstage” – maybe a statement some clever Bieber fan will turn into a T-shirt. It was “One Less Lonely Girl” that got the loudest pre-emptive applause when Bieber announced he would bring a fan onstage to serenade her. As he played his last song, Braun re-emerged onstage and led the crowd in a “Thank you, Justin” scream before Bieber said goodbye.
Fans turned their heads to the big screen again as Purpose: The Movement began. It was introduced by clips of Bieber walking backstage spliced with “dark moments” from the singer’s past, as he acknowledged his wild behavior and media backlash of the past through a narration. The video then turned to Bieber singing “Mark My Words” atop a piano in the desert. An intense and steamy dance routine in an empty warehouse followed for “I’ll Show You” before he switched to a colorful dance sequence set on a playground for “What Do You Mean?” It was at this point that some fans, aware Bieber was not coming back, trickled out to the streets.
The lights in the stadium turned on as soon as the video ended and the remaining fans sighed as their hope of seeing the 21-year-old singer faded away.
One more Bieber event is scheduled for Friday at Staples Center, beginning at 9 p.m. PT.
Had a great first show but just heard about what happened in Paris. Thoughts and prayers with everyone #PrayForParis
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) November 14, 2015
We decided we are going to continue with the livestream at 6PM to hopefully bring some light & hope to those hurting https://t.co/NPdMpzicRb
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) November 14, 2015