Published on theMusic.com.au, Mar 2017
It was almost like Brisbane pop favourites Sheppard had been rehearsing at nib Stadium all weekend, hitting the ground running and playing to the 25,000-strong crowd like it was their own headline show.
Booming tom beats complimented the pitch-perfect, soaring harmonies of Amy and George Sheppard, and while the guitars and keys were a little washed out, the rhythm section and tight vocals were more than enough.
Familiar tunes from 2014’s Bombs Away album were accompanied by material from a forthcoming release. Their “first new international single in a while”, Keep Me Crazy, saw George make the runway protruding into the audience his own before the band had everyone on their feet for Geronimo.
The mood changed drastically when the sun went down and Dutch DJ Martin Garrix rolled out the decks, making things immediately louder with the introduction of The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face.
The juxtaposition between a live band and DJ was jarring at first but bridged the gap between the opener and headliner perfectly.
The stadium was on fire — and that’s not referring to the pyrotechnics — as seizure-inducing visuals collided with a sea of phone lights to the sounds of Daft Punk, Major Lazer and more.
Eardrums? What eardrums? Justin Bieber was welcomed to the stage to a collective screech that could render you incapacitated on the floor.
The wave of screams fused with a wall of bass and hectic light show as Bieber rose from below the stage inside a transparent box, scribbling on it with a fluoro yellow marker, giving a literal interpretation to Mark My Words as fireworks lit up the stadium.
Where Are Ü Now continued the onslaught of pyrotechnics and welcomed an army of back-up dancers, leading him to the end of the runway for Get Used To It, where another epic addition to the already massive production was unveiled. A platform lifted Bieber into the air as the song climaxed into another fireworks display and dancers spun out of control in the background.
Dishing up an early message to the haters, he climbed into a cage that resembled a UFC ring for I’ll Show You, pacing around with an infectious energy that carried over to uplifting number The Feeling and megahit Boyfriend.
Sitting down on a velvet red couch with an acoustic guitar, some technical difficulties set in, with a quick strum interrupted by a noticeable rattle. “These damn bracelets,” he said, requesting assistance from a crew member to take them off. But he still wasn’t satisfied, firing off a snide remark at a roadie. “It’s like someone deaf tuned my guitar,” he added, kicking into Major Lazer’s Cold Water.
Any concerns that the lavish production and relentless pyrotechnics were overcompensating for the performance itself were put to rest during a solo performance of Love Yourself.
His band got their time in the spotlight during Company — guitarist Julian Michael unleashing a solo that managed to cut through the insane bass and production, while Devon Taylor dished up impressive speed across a number of unique drum fills — showing how integral they were to the show.
While the production was mind blowing, it was songs like No Pressure where the melody took control that Bieber truly shined.
After a brief drum solo from Bieber himself, it was back to a full-fledged pop show with a flurry of dancers — including a handful of young locals — moving to a steady beat while bursts of smoke shot from all corners of the stage.
The hundreds who braved the scorching heat and lined up all day for a prime spot at the front were dished a raw deal, with Bieber spending most of the time interacting with fans in the middle of the crowd near the end of the runaway, getting up-close during hits like Life Is Worth Living.
What Do You Mean? dished up the biggest fireworks display of the night with a massive sound to back it up — something that highlighted the weakness of the trademark single Baby, which followed.
“This is my Purpose, thank you for listening,” Bieber said. “If you could put your phones down for this song so we can make it a little bit more intimate,” he requested, laying down on the stage and singing to the stars. It was a nice change of pace before every phone in the stadium was out for the show-stopping Sorry, which was unsurprisingly accompanied by more impressive fireworks and his band unleashing everything they had. “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. I’m Justin Bieber.”
Say what you will about The Biebs, he puts on one hell of a show.