roduction-wise, Friday's concert was truly divine. The dancing-on-lava trick happened thanks to the stage itself being a giant video screen, which wrapped into a U behind the stage. He also rode atop an airplane for his arrival in the opening song "Somebody," and he sang at a faux bus stop with a streetlamp for a three-song acoustic montage featuring the mega-hit "Love Yourself." He didn't walk on water, but he did dance across lava, levitate above the crowd and talk a lot about loving God his Father.
No, it wasn't the second coming of Jesus that wowed a sold-out crowd Friday night at Target Center, but rather the long-awaited return of Justin.
Bieber, that is, who was due to hit Minneapolis in 2020 on his Justice Tour. We all know the injustice that caused him to arrive two years late.
During the interim, it seems, the 28-year-old Canadian pop singer grew into a stauncher Christian and a steadier, less party-prone young adult. He still hasn't grown up a whole lot as a performer, though.
Bieber's set opened with a new-agey, butterfly-filled video in which he repeatedly pledged his faith with lines like, "I trust that God is in control." The Christian motif continued throughout the 1 ¾-hour show: Pink neon crosses rose to the stage during "Holy;" another pre-recorded video mid-concert highlighted "God's belief in you;" and during the encore he gave a long speech about "meeting a man born in Bethlehem."
That latter pitch, by the way, came right before he sang the recent mega-hit "Peaches," with lyrics that wouldn't fly in church.
Performance-wise, Bieber seemed more invested Friday than at his prior, phoned-in Target Center gig in 2016.
It was hard to tell through all the electronic augmentation how much effort he put in as a singer during newer tunes such as "Deserve You" and "2 Much," but he did convincingly show off his pipes in the acoustic tunes and a few rawer-sounding numbers such as "Sorry."
"Sorry" was one of the songs where he worked pretty hard as a dancer, too, pushed along by his impressive 16-member troupe. Maybe his sharpest move of the night, though, was delivering a speech about the "Justice" title of his album and tour, which sounded tailored to the city of George Floyd's murder.
"There's so much division and racial injustice," he preached. "Racism is evil and diabolical. You and I get to be the change makers."
Too bad very little of Bieber's music on Friday reflected the times or his newfound deeper balance.
After some of pop's hottest young newcomers came to the Twin Cities in recent months offering songs with meaningful messages and authentic emotions — including Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Conan Grey — it was hard to stomach a lot of Bieber's lightweight material; especially since he's not so young himself anymore.
"Bona fide stallion / Ain't in no stable / You stay on the run / You're number one," he sang in "Yummy," likening his love interest to a horse as he repeated the word "yummy" about 900 times. And then came Peaches and its inanely horny lyrics.
Mind you, these are songs on Bieber's 2020-2021 albums, not silly fluff left over from when he was 16. He did some of those tunes, too — like "Baby," which came right before the encore and found a man now married to a model singing oh-so-woefully about a breakup at age 13. Time to move on in more ways than one, Biebs.