By Victoria Ahearn
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ Justin Bieber gave fans the intimate experience they were hoping for at an acoustic benefit concert on Monday night, bringing his younger half-brother onstage and interacting with the crowd, telling them: “It’s good to be back in Canada!”
“It’s really good to be home,” he said as he kicked off the show on a pared-down set at the Danforth Music Hall in a tuque, hoodie, black jeans and sneakers.
“We’re just going to make this really loose,” he added as he sat on a stool beside guitarist Dan Kanter to begin the event with his new hit “What Do You Mean.”
Proceeds from the show will go the Stratford House of Blessing in Bieber’s hometown of Stratford, Ont. The outreach centre has a food bank and services to help those in need. The organization says Bieber’s mother used its services when he was little.
Bieber said his mother couldn’t be at the concert, but his dad and grandparents were there. He also brought his six-year-old brother, Jaxon, onstage.
“Are you nervous?” he asked him before giving him a hug.
The 21-year-old pop superstar performed many of his hits, from his recent “Sorry” and “I’ll Show You” from his chart-topping album “Purpose,” to his older tunes “If I Was Your Boyfriend” and “Baby.”
For “Lonely Girl,” he brought a fan who was celebrating her 16th birthday onstage, giving her a long hug before sitting her on a stool and serenading her.
Bieber also performed several holiday hits as well as a rendition of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” At the end of the show he sat behind the piano to play and sing a couple of tunes, including the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
He was playful and relaxed, allowing a fan to ask him a question (it was about his favourite candy, which he said is Sour Patch Kids) and cheekily telling viewers watching the live stream on his website: “Sucks you guys aren’t here.”
He told fans the night was about leaving “feeling inspired.”
“I’m having the best time of my life out here,” said Bieber.
Fans lined up for over 24 hours to get a prime seat at the sold-out event, which came on the same day Bieber landed a Grammy Award nomination for best dance recording for “Where Are U Now,” a collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo.
“I already have tickets for the May concert, but this one is just so intimate and it’s a smaller venue, so it leaves for more opportunity to get closer to him…. And the proceeds are going to a really good cause,” said Taylor Bousfield, 21, of London, Ont., who arrived at the venue at 11 a.m. on Sunday to secure a good spot at the general-admission show.
“I’m (a) big (fan), but after today, I’ve seen way crazier, to a whole other level.”
The lineup to get into “An Evening With Justin Bieber” at the approximately 1,400-seat venue stretched around the block before doors opened.
Tickets, which were priced at $100 each, quickly sold out when they went on sale last Tuesday.
“It’s pretty stressful,” said Bousfield, who took a bus to the city and camped out overnight with a friend in front of the venue in hopes of securing a front-row spot. They barely slept and planned to still show up for school for exams on Tuesday.
“I have such anxiety, it’s crazy,” she added.
Danielle Leonard, 15, from Richmond Hill, Ont., called it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“At shows at the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre, they’re not as special as this one,” said Leonard, who had been camping out at the venue with a friend since 7 p.m. on Sunday.
“There’s a little amount of people and they’re all worshiping the same person that you are, rather than like 50,000 people being there. Like, he’s actually paying attention to the people in the crowd.”
Bieber has helped out the Stratford food bank before.
Last year, he and his grandmother donated several of his childhood items for the group to auction off on eBay. He’s also donated $10,000 to the group.