East Rutherford, N.J. -- Justin Bieber is embracing being in-between.
Bieber started his Izod Center show Friday night, as an angel floating down from a massive two-story set, thanks to a giant set of wings and a guide wire. He was dressed all in white -- aside from the dark sunglasses. Yes, The Bieb has learned symbolism.
Throughout his 105-minute concert, the 18-year-old superstar tried to balance reaching out to fans his age and older, while still keeping the tweens and teen girls in his audience happy. It's part of his transition from his sweet, innocent teen pop and more grown-up dance and R&B music. And, for the most part, it works.
"Are you ready to go on an adventure with me tonight?" he asks, following "All Around the World," which revealed his troupe of 10 dancers, assorted flag bearers running into the crowd, a flurry of impressive dance moves.
However, Bieber, who plays Barclays Center Monday night, is actually at his best when he is least adventurous, when he is doing songs completely in his comfort zone. He had a confident ease doing "Chasing Feelings," a Michael Jackson-flavored soul ballad that showed off the subtleties of Bieber's vocals, as well as the Jacksons-influenced "Die in Your Arms." On the new single "Beauty and a Beat" and the hit "Somebody to Love," Bieber showed he can handle an uptempo club anthem while still busting out strong choreography. On "Boyfriend," the mix of swagger and simplicity seemed genuine.
The only struggles in the show come when he's trying too hard, occasionally stretching to reach notes that were easier to hit before his voice changed. Also, he may be developing a bit of a persecution complex, especially in "She Don't Like the Lights," where in a video he revels in evading paparazzi pursuing him with cartoonish violence, and in another taped piece he delivers a list of his awards followed by media criticism and questions about his future.
Given the strength of the current tour, Bieber shouldn't worry about that stuff. The future will take care of itself.