Coughing fits and technical glitches: Bieber gets human on stage in Australia

The show, with its coughs and technical difficulties, showed off a more human side of the pop sensation.

The show, with its coughs and technical difficulties, showed off a more human side of the pop sensation.

When Justin Bieber coughed a marble of phlegm from the back of his lung a little over halfway into his set, it could have been the moment his Brisbane, Australia show went to pot.

Until As Long As You Love Me, about an hour into the show, his performance had been a high-fiving, back-slapping, chest-thumping show full of energy and audience interaction.

He'd swapped cheeky grins with his dancers, eye-balled members of the crowd, and offered up a flirtatious array of facial expressions in seeming contrast to his Melbourne performance three nights earlier which was labelled "lifeless" by critics.

Justin Bieber arrives at his show by box.

Justin Bieber arrives at his show by box.

Brisbane got the best of Bieber, but balmy 26-degree heat was taking its toll.

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"I think I must be coming down with something," he said after more mid-song coughing during a version of Let Me Love You.

Justin Bieber is performing one New Zealand show at Mt Smart Stadium on March 18.

Justin Bieber is performing one New Zealand show at Mt Smart Stadium on March 18.

"I can't stop coughing up here. I'm a little jet-lagged, a little sick. But we're powering through."

In jest, he reckoned someone called Snoop must have passed on his lurgy.

"It's hot as hell up here," he said.

Had it been bad, his complaining could have been seen as an excuse.

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Life is Worth Living, What Do You Mean?, Baby and Purpose all had croaky moments, but with a water bottle tucked under his arm, Bieber continued to smile and share philosophical musings with screaming teens whose tears fell heavier than the sprinklings of rain which threatened to dampen Suncorp Stadium's plastic on-field floor.

Girls mopped dripping make-up with apologetic t-shirts, "Sorry" written across their front and back. Others preferred to boast: "My mama don't like you."

On stage, Bieber's coughing wasn't the only hiccup.

During the acoustic part of the show, he stumbled through the start of an intimate rendition of Won't Let Go. He ripped out the earpiece and all of a sudden the tone of the show seemed to turn. It became real, a humanised, more genuine version.

The follow-up guitar solo of Sorry was probably not meant to be quite so short, but the un-aided, unplugged versions were raw, emotional, and engaging.

Sure, the stage show is powerful. From the moment Bieber emerged in a giant cube, writing messages on the inside of the glass walls, to the cage in which he prowled with an overdose of lasers, to the smoke and fireworks, it's the elaborate stage production many want to see.

Others want the Bieber reality show, and which social taboo he'll break on a given night. There were errors, but none of them taboo.

"Let's go," he said from the outset after tying the drawstring of his tracksuit pants tighter.

There was the occasional flat note, the odd cough, and unexpected technical hitches. That's what made it great. Suddenly, a personality emerged. And it was a pleasant experience.

The audience saw a little bit of the person Bieber keeps telling fans he wants to be.

After dancing with a group of children, he introduced them to the crowd. He didn't know their names, but he found out. "Vena with a V", "the coolest name ever" and the others in the dance gang all got a hug from their idol. Things got real, and it was nice.

Sure, there were glimpses of a naughty grown-up Bieber as he danced alongside dancers dressed in lingerie and catsuits.

But that's the side of Bieber people love to hate.

"We're all going through a journey of finding out about ourselves," Bieber told the crowd, along with a few other well-rehearsed gospel-type verse. "Be the best person in yourself."

Regardless, somewhere between Melbourne and Brisbane, it would seem the music industry's bad boy remembered a promise to himself to become likeable.

 - Brisbane Times


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