He certainly knows how to make an entrance: Justin Bieber arrived on stage by rising up into a large spherical steel cage, wreathed in dry-ice smoke and bathed in lights as he kicked off his “My World” tour Wednesday night at XL Center in Hartford.
It was the first in a series of flashy visual spectacles that kept a capacity crowd of tweens (and less so their patient parents) shrieking at full volume throughout the 16-year-old Canadian singer’s 75-minute set of sugary pop songs, often with an R&B flavor.
There were jets of steam, various costumes and two more steel contraptions suspended from the rigging. Both of them ventured out over the crowd with Bieber singing from inside them: He sang and played “Never Let You Go” and “Favorite Girl” while seated inside a heart, and ran through “Up” from inside what looked like an egg.
Bieber and his backup dancers glided through well-choreographed dance steps that sometimes called to mind the moves of Michael Jackson, and the singer roamed the stage when he wasn’t part of the routines.
On “Somebody to Love,” Bieber, dressed in black as if ready to pull off a bank heist, strapped himself into a harness to scale a backdrop adorned with a cartoonish city skyline, which he tagged, graffiti-style, with his initials in black spray paint.
The show featured music, too, though that sometimes seemed incidental as Bieber padded out his set with video interludes (including high-profile plugs for the video-game manufacturer sponsoring his tour), a medley of songs from his backup singers, Legacy, and a medley for his dancers to showcase their moves. The latter ended with Bieber taking a turn on drums during a chorus of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”
He sang tunefully and with feeling on the slower numbers, though his voice sometimes sounded raspy, as though he was suffering from allergies. Or puberty. Either way, he often sang along with recorded tracks, which resulted in an opening-night glitch when they seemed to drop out on “Runaway Love.”
One of the openers, Jessica Jarrell, sang a duet with Bieber on “Overboard,” and support act Sean Kingston joined Bieber on “Eenie Meenie.” Bieber ended his regular set a song later with “Down to Earth,” before returning for an encore that started with an a cappella version of Chris Brown’s “With You” and ended with Bieber’s biggest hit, “Baby.”