When we walked into Greensboro Coliseum Wednesday night to see Justin Bieber, we thought our fan-girlish fervor for the pop star had been silenced by age and time.
The sore throats and scratchy voices we’re left with have proven us wrong.
We were transported back in time, screaming and singing with the same enthusiasm of our younger years. It turns out we’ve had Bieber’s greatest hits cataloged all these years; despite assuming we’d forgotten his songs, it felt like a natural instinct to shout every word – rap included – to “Baby.”
Maybe it was the impressive stage production: Acrobats flew through the air, dancers moved to the beat, and each song had its own unique lighting design. Bieber even jumped on a trampoline suspended above the stage during “Company.”
But it wasn’t the spectacle that caught our attention as teens and flared our excitement again Wednesday night. Instead, it was Bieber’s raw talent, charisma and sincerity that reminded us that although his music has matured, the fever is familiar.
Bieber’s most authentic moment came when he stepped out of the spectacle to pick up his guitar. A chorus of fans accompanied his acoustic performances of “Love Yourself” and “Fast Car,” by Tracy Chapman. It was during this part of the set that he seemed most comfortable, joking in between songs.
“Are you sweating because it’s hot, or because you’ve got Bieber fever?” he asked.
During his upbeat songs, like “What Do You Mean?” and “Where Are Ü Now,” Bieber joined his dancers in complex choreography – sometimes relying on a pre-recorded track to sustain the melody during the more breathless moments.
Bieber’s “Purpose World Tour” contained a musical message that demonstrated how much he has grown since his baby-faced days as a YouTube sensation.
“Purpose,” he explained, is a reminder that each person has a gift to contribute to the world. The songs’ messages emphasized this point, and as he sang that “Life Is Worth Living,” we were shown glimpses of his journey.
In the middle of the show, he polled the audience, asking our ages. Of course, fans of all ages were sprinkled throughout the venue, but it was evident that the majority of the crowd was in their early 20s, just like him. Yes, he’s grown up, but so have we.
The mark of a mindful musician is when their art represents their evolution as an individual. This isn’t the hair-swooping, snap-back-sporting adolescent that held our hearts hostage as teenagers. This is a Bieber who has been hurt by heartbreak, fame, even failure.
When he left the stage at 10:15 p.m., we took it upon ourselves to start a “Bieber” chant throughout the performance space. While it probably wasn’t our two-person chant that sealed the deal, he re-emerged to deliver the most energetic performance of the night: “Sorry.”
A technically-controlled rain poured onto the performers as thousands of fans shouted the lyrics, enjoying the combination of a new Bieber sound with his same old energy.
His sound has developed, and his look is almost unrecognizable from how we first remember him. But if we learned anything Wednesday night, it’s that there’s no cure for the Bieber fever that’s been inside us since the beginning.