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Justin Bieber barfs on stage, but the show goes on

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Updated: November 2, 2012 6:17AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Justin Bieber had a mission with his new Believe tour, which kicked off Saturday at 18,000-seat Jobing Arena in this Phoenix suburb. It was to show that the 18-year-old was ready to eclipse the tween YouTube phenomenon and prove he was an entertainer of merit and endurance.

He indeed showed he was a man at the sold-out venue, but it had nothing to do with his new array of urban-tinged tunes or a stage spectacle that melded the visual gee-whiz of Hollywood with the crowd-pleasing power of Broadway. And it had everything to do with throwing up.

In an impressive embodiment of show-must-go-on bravura, Bieber succumbed to an upset stomach not once but twice during his 21-song set, leaving fans wide-eyed and concerned, only to charge back on stage.

The first instance came an hour into the 105-minute concert, midway through the “Guys and Dolls”-inspired presentation of “Out of Town Girl.” Bieber wheeled around suddenly and doubled over, then scurried off stage. The dozen male and female dancers continued their routine, but when a DJ took over without the singer, a buzz rippled through the crowd.

“I’m sorry, I’m going to slow things down,” Bieber said when he reappeared to the usual barrage of ear-piercing screams. He took to a platform on a crane and soared above the audience, performing “Fall” on acoustic guitar and recalling his roots busking as a kid in Stratford, Ontario.

Bieber then powered through his “Karate Kid” theme song, “Never Say Never.” But a few thumps into “Beauty and a Beat,” his duet with Nicki Minaj (who provided her rap via a taped video), the singer vanished again, this time resulting in a complete halt to the show for a few minutes.

When he finally returned, Bieber had the poise and innate show-business smarts to come clean. “It’s hard for me, you know, not feeling great and throwing up in front of a bunch of people,” he said to laughs. “Will you love me even though I’m throwing up onstage?” Shrill shrieks. “OK, I wanted to give you my best show ever, so do you mind if I finish it?”

Finish it he did, dedicating “One Less Lonely Girl” to Avalanna Routh, the 6-year-old fan who succumbed to cancer on Sept. 26 (“If you’re listening, I love you,” he said, looking skyward) and wrapping the show with “Boyfriend,” complete with a few adult-oriented -- and Michael Jackson-inspired -- crotch grabs. (The King of Pop cues were evident, from the enigmatic “B” talisman that appeared as the show began, to Bieber’s flying entrance on enormous wings made of cymbals and guitars for show opener “All Around the World”).

The show wasn’t perfect. A planned magic act was scotched because of Bieber’s illness, and a few songs seemed to lack a segue, simply ending in silence as fans waited for the next number. All that can certainly be fixed in the course of 70-plus shows planned for the USA and Europe.

But it’s hard to say what was more impressive, the ambitious multimedia presentation or the gutsy multidimensional performer who powered through the evening where lesser stars might have pulled up lame. What’s truly believable is that Bieber has a big future beyond his improbably successful past.



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