(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
I went to one of Justin Bieber’s sold-out arena shows in Chicago on Tuesday (Oct. 23), and when you see a concert of that magnitude, you kind of have to say something. So what I’ll say is this: I saw in Bieber a lot of what I see in country stars at the top of their game.
Like when he rose up and out over the audience on a hydraulic cherry picker, it’s like he was trying to make the room feel smaller, as Garth Brooks always tried to do. When he brought a lucky, lucky, so so lucky teenage girl onstage for his “One Less Lonely Girl,” it reminded me of what Keith Urban used to do with “Jeans On.”
And Bieber’s dance troupe? That felt so much like a Taylor Swift production. The pyrotechnics made me feel, momentarily, like I was at a Rascal Flatts show. Then again, watching this boy wonder sit down at the piano reminded me how much Bieber is like Hunter Hayes, with a natural gift for music that started way before either one could even read music. The hour-long wait for T-shirts also felt very Hunter Hayes-ish.
What it comes down to with stars like this, whether they are legendary country acts or teen-pop phenomena, is that when you can connect with your audience for close to two hours, everybody wins.