Justin Bieber whipped a sold-out Air Canada Centre into a shrieking frenzy with an energetic performance on Saturday, likely leaving thousands of doting fans even more devoted to the teen heart-throb.
Young devotees of the Stratford, Ont., singing sensation were out in force for this performance, sporting home-made T-shirts, waving signs or applying face and bodypaint in honour of the 16-year-old pop star.
“It feels great to be home in Canada,” Bieber said near the beginning of his roughly 90-minute set.
“I think the Canadian fans are my best fans in the world.”
It would be tough to argue with him after this show.
Each time his face appeared on a giant screen behind the stage, the fans shrieked.
Any time his name was mentioned by any of the evening’s three opening acts, they shrieked.
And, of course, when he rose from under the stage to launch into Love Me, they shrieked even louder.
By the end, audience members with ringing ears might have felt like they had been at a metal concert.
Most fans were decked out in some form of Bieber gear, with too many homemade T-shirts, Bieber-branded glow sticks and “I (Heart) Justin Bieber” headbands to count. One group of girls even sewed the singer’s name across the back of their shorts.
And Bieber spent much of the show making sure the thousands of fans — mostly preteen and teenage girls — knew he loved them back.
At one point, he serenaded the crowd with his ballad Favourite Girl while strapped into a steel heart, floating on wires high above their heads.
After his Toronto gig, the pop dynamo will move on to London, Ont., and Ottawa before heading to the United States for several shows.
He also has shows scheduled in Winnipeg, Regina, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon and is due to perform at the upcoming MTV Video Awards.
“How many single ladies here?” he asked at one point, drawing a chorus of screams.
“You got a lot of beautiful girls here.”
At one point, he asked that the house lights be turned on so he could get a better look at that “beautiful” crowd.
From there, he singled out various audience members for praise — “Blue dress, I see you,” he said.
“Toronto, who wants to be my baby?” he asked prior to his show-closing performance of his biggest hit.
Bieber last headlined a show in Toronto in November, when he performed to a packed crowd at the comparatively intimate Kool Haus, which has a capacity of around 2,500.
In the interim, he appeared at June’s MMVAs, causing droves of Bieberites to brave humidity, rain and several nights sleeping on the sidewalk to secure tickets to the streetside bash.
Bieber first attracted the attention of music-industry bigwigs years ago with a series of homemade YouTube videos showcasing the fresh-faced prodigy singing R&B covers.
That history was showcased during Saturday’s show, as the onstage screen depicted home videos of a young Bieber and a montage of baby photos.
That he could transition from a club to a sold-out arena in a matter of months is a testament to his dizzying ascent.
His debut EP, “My World,” and the full-length that followed (“My World 2.0”) have both been certified platinum in Canada and the United States.
He was also nominated for three Juno Awards and he performed at the April gala. Then, he seemed nervous and tentative.
He seemed much more relaxed at Saturday night’s gig, where he knew he was among friends.
Hopping onstage in white jeans, a white jacket, a purple hoodie and high-top sneakers (the first in a series of costumes), he was in constant motion during the set, whether dancing, hopping or even sprinting across the stage.
He also displayed a musicanship that might have been news to some, strumming an acoustic guitar and taking centre stage for a competent drum solo.
And the performance didn’t seem disappoint.
“I thought it was really good,” said 16-year-old Brittany Vanderlip, an Ancaster, Ont., native who had “I’m a Belieber” scrawled across her homemade T-shirt.
“It was like the best show ever,” agreed 10-year-old Sofia Gallucci of Woodbridge, Ont.
Bieber addressed the devotion of the fans just before wrapping up the show.
“First of all, I just want to say thanks to all my fans,” he said, his voice by then hoarse. “I wouldn’t be in this position without my fans, so thanks to each and every one of you.”
A moment later, he flashed his sense of humour.
“And thanks to all the dads who are patiently sitting there like: ’When is this over?”’