×

At the first of Justin Bieber’s three “hometown” concerts on Friday, fans found photocopied signs under their seats at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena that read “WELCOME HOME” above a simple sketch of the Toronto cityscape. However, few did — instead, the 14,627 fans at the “Justice” tour show, rescheduled from last year, spent most of the show on their feet, screaming when they weren’t singing along, a much more demonstrative way of delivering the same message.

Lazy loaded image
Karen Bliss

The first mask-optional concert at the venue (most did not wear one) — since all restrictions have now been lifted in Ontario even as coronavirus levels in wastewater are on the rise — was like old times, pre-pandemic beer spilling included, lip-pouting selfies, and girls trying to sweet-talk or sneak past security to a closer spot.

While the other two sold-out shows aren’t until June, the homecoming vibe was deep. Scotiabank Arena is home to Bieber’s beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, and the singer, now 28 and married, grew up in Stratford, Ont., about 90 miles away, not just playing guitar, drums and piano, but hockey too (take it from a Canadian: he’s pretty damn good). Last week, he got to unveil a dream-come-true, a reversible professional hockey jersey, with the Leafs’ blue logo on one side and his Drew House brand’s yellow reimagining on the other. The team wore them on the ice Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils and won, 3-2. Bieber didn’t talk about the lucky sweater onstage, instead sporting a neutral-coloured plaid Drew shirt, and his dancers repped the brand as well.

Bieber’s grandparents and other family members were even in attendance, and cheerfully posed for photos with eagle-eyed fans; Bieber posted a pic on Instagram with his dad from a corridor backstage.

Lazy loaded image
Karen Bliss

However, the only hometown reference during the 90-minute, 24-song came when Bieber said simply, “It’s good to be back home — I can tell you that much,” and the “bus shelter” used for the acoustic segment lit with the words “Toronto” (it’s changed in every city).

Lazy loaded image
Karen Bliss

He emerged on the stage standing atop a fake airplane, which took off into the air for the show opener, “Somebody,” and proceeded through a spot-on selection from his six studio albums that included recent hits — “Hold On,” “Deserve You,” “2 Much,” “As I Am,” “Holy,” “Ghost,” “Love You Different”  “Peaches,” “Lonely” and “Anyone” — as well as  “Yummy,” “Love Yourself,” “Sorry” and, of course, the song that started it all, “Baby.” He rolled through the sophisticated production which included video and light syncs and rising and floating platforms.

Bieber also wasn’t afraid to drive home his deep religious beliefs in the concert, with pre-recorded video messages in which he talked about his faith and love of God and Jesus.

And as soon as the show ended, with flashpots and lasers, some fans literally ran from their seats — not to beat the crowd, rather to nab a spot in line at one of the merch tables.

Set List:

Somebody
Hold On
Deserve You
Holy
Where Are U Now
What Do You Mean?
Yummy
Changes
Love Yourself
Off My Face
Confident
All That Matters
Don’t Go
Sorry
Love You Different
As I Am
Ghost
Lonely
2 Much
Intentions
Boyfriend
Baby
Peaches
Anyone