x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The attack, the speeding and the shopping: a look back at Bieber in the UAE

Justin Bieber's performances and off-stage antics made it one of the most talked-about tours ever to hit the UAE

Justin Bieber arrives on stage at the Dubai Sevens stadium on Saturday. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
Justin Bieber arrives on stage at the Dubai Sevens stadium on Saturday. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters

Justin Bieber’s Dubai performances had the elements of a tour to remember: a teen-heartthrob in fear of self-destruction; dedicated tween fans and irate parents wondering what all the fuss was about. Then there were all those rumours, the fake sightings and genuine public appearances. And, lest it be forgotten, there was the “fan” invading the stage in a failed hugging attempt. Bieber’s two-night stand in Dubai lived up to all the drama of his world tour.

The Beliebers

The craziness all started with the tour announcement in September. The sounds of piggy banks smashing echoed across the region, with parents displaying Herculean efforts of patience as children across the Arab world extended their hands for the extra cash needed to buy tickets to the fan pit. (General admission? Like, hello?) Bieberdom also extended on social networks, with dozens of UAE fans adopting Bieber last names and “Bieber in Dubai” groups being created. All that goodwill should have been squandered with Bieber’s two-hour delays on both shows. It certainly seemed like it, with all the jeering that was going on before Biebs hit the stage. But the Beliebers are an understanding lot, forgiving the singer for his tardiness all due to him playing their favourite songs. Such compassion was not expressed by some parents, however.

The parents

It began with amusement at their little tykes’ enthusiasm about Bieber’s imminent arrival. But as it turned out, the “coming shortly” stated by the supporting act, the radio DJ Kris Fade, stretched out to two hours. When Bieber hit the stage at 10pm on both nights, the damage was done. Many parents stared daggers throughout the show with the wound compounded by his lip-synched performance. They took out their frustration on social networking sites, labelling the concert as a “disgrace” and “appalling”.

The shows

Another UAE mimathon or BEST SHOW EVER!!! The fan reviews depended on your taste and age. The Bieber show is a choreographed machine requiring the singer to be on the move at all times. Frankly, when it came to the Dubai opener, Bieber was not up for it. Call it jet lag or tour fatigue, Bieber seemed a faded figure on stage and even required a quick sit-down backstage after the opening number. The second show found him up to speed, displaying a new-found vitality as he moved along with his dancers and even singing a song or two for a change. The interplay between the flashy video screens and the cracking band made the whole affair move along rather seamlessly.

The hug that couldn’t be

The thing about hugs is that they are best given when the hugger faces the hug-ee. Doing it from behind could be viewed as a form of assault, as an over-eager fan found out when he invaded the stage to manhandle a startled Bieber, who was “playing” the piano. The security guards lunged at the fan and Bieber escaped the fracas, dashing side of stage. But please spare a thought for that piano. The poor instrument flew off its hinges and literally bounced off the floor, rendering it unplayable for the rest of the show.

The international media

As well as wondering how the fan accessed the stage to rush at the Biebs, some foreign media were puzzled by the origin of The National, which broke the story. The UK’s Telegraph, an esteemed publication, labelled The National a “Dubai-based” newspaper. At least the Los Angeles Times played it safe by claiming it was a “United Arab Emirates paper”. The same couldn’t be said about one of Australia’s leading tabloids, The Herald Sun, which explained to readers that The National was “an English-speaking newspaper”. Kudos to Rolling Stone magazine which got it spot on, saying we are from the capital.

The rumours

You wonder if employees at The Dubai Mall didn’t make it up themselves. If so, give the bright marketing spark a sizeable commission. When news broke out on Twitter that Bieber was shopping in the mall, it was immediately swarmed with Beliebers hoping to catch a glimpse of the singer and his shopping list (more gold gloves, perhaps?). The fans eventually left hours after being convinced Bieber was not in the building – not after giving a few confectionery shops early May bonuses. Another rumour was peddled by London’s The Daily Mail newspaper, claiming “one club” sent Justin Bieber a “24-carat gold ping-pong table to keep him busy”. If this is true then the newly opened SPiN Dubai ping-pong club has done a lousy job of advertising its prized centrepiece.

The reality

The Beliebers jumped the gun. The pop star did arrive at The Dubai Mall for a spot of shopping but on Monday instead of Friday. The Dubai Mall proudly posted pictures on its Facebook account of Bieber arriving in the carpark in a white Lamborghini and leaving the premiere fashion boutique Givenchy with three minions clutching bags of goodies. What also started as a rumour on the website Reddit was confirmed by Dubai police on Tuesday: Bieber was caught speeding down Sheikh Zayed Road, setting off up to six speed cameras on the way. Perhaps both were failed attempts to reach one of his shows on time.

The wrap up

You would have thought after Bieber’s dramas in London – arriving late on stage and scuffling with the paparazzi – his minders would have kept him on a leash for the remainder of his tour. However, Bieber’s Dubai stay was filled with drama both on and offstage, all of which made world headlines. Judging by the more than 30 dates left on the tour, his name won’t be disappearing from headlines – both real and unreal – anytime soon.

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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