Justin Bieber Just About Manages to Save Face in Tel Aviv

The performance reflected what happened to the singer's career over the last two years - he was rescued just before he hit rock bottom

Justin Bieber performs in Tel Aviv, May 3, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

“Maybe you don’t get it, but behind the scenes right now is the biggest pop star in the world,” said Static in the middle of his and Ben El Tavori’s warm-up act for Justin Bieber. Maybe he exaggerated a little. Bieber isn’t the greatest pop star in the world. There are five or 10 bigger stars, and it’s a pity one of them didn’t perform in Hayarkon Park on Wednesday night. Or for that matter, any one of the 20 stars on the international scale who rank after Bieber.

It wasn’t a bad performance, mainly due to its last three quarters of an hour, which were much better than the first hour. But presumably it will be remembered, that is, not remembered, as one of the least successful shows of the summer of 2017.

The first hour provided one of the dullest, palest performances ever to take place in the park in recent years. Everything was disgustingly lifeless and industrial. Bieber is quite a colorless singer, but his voice didn’t even have a touching human weakness; instead it sounded like an app of half playback, half live singing. The band didn’t sound good either, the songs were nondescript, and Bieber was a total failure in the crotch test.

Many pop and hip hop stars touch their crotch a lot while performing. This isn’t an especially graceful gesture but when the show is good you say to yourself, no biggie, everything around it is fine, who cares. But when the show isn’t good, the crotch thing stands out and the reaction is more like “ugh.”

Promotional photo of Static and Ben El Tavori
Moshe Nachumovich

That’s what happened in the first hour of Wednesday’s show. Although it’s not certain the teenage girls standing next to me thought so. One of them even burst into tears when Bieber started singing his loathsome ballad “Love Yourself.” And then things started getting better and suddenly the crotch thing became negligible, and the gap between what I thought and what the girls were thinking shrunk.

What happened? The songs became a little better, the sound people pressed the right buttons, and mainly the performance suddenly reflected what happened to Bieber’s career in the last two years. He was down and out already, on the way to being a 21-year-old has-been. But cooperation with a few of the hottest current producers gave birth to surprisingly sharp hits, first and foremost the endearing “Sorry,” and once again Bieber was up and running.

These songs starred in the last half hour of the show, which had a passable groove and even got Bieber singing in a human manner. Maybe the first hour was so pallid deliberately, to give the ending a feeling of great success? One way or another, after drawing out the weaker part of the show for far too long, Bieber somehow saved his honor.

Justin Bieber fans at Hayarkon Park, in Tel Aviv, May 3, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum