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Justin Bieber and his sister Jazmyn perform during a special acoustic Christmas show at Massey Hall in Toronto. (George Pimentel/Getty Images/George Pimentel/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber and his sister Jazmyn perform during a special acoustic Christmas show at Massey Hall in Toronto. (George Pimentel/Getty Images/George Pimentel/Getty Images)

Music review

Baby, it's warm inside as Justin Bieber comes home for the holidays Add to ...

Dreams were realized, fantasies were fulfilled and yet more wishes are still to be granted. After his 105-minute concert at Massey Hall, the toque-wearing teen-idol Justin Bieber presented a giant cardboard cheque to The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, to the amount of $500,000.

He had already thanked his over-the-moon audience, saying that it was his dream – as well as the dream of his accompanist, Toronto’s Dan Kanter – to play at the venerable hall.

And as for fantasies? The screams, squeals and sobs were proof enough that most reasonable desires were satisfied.

The benefit concert, 60 minutes late in starting at its appointed hour, was taped for broadcast today (Dec. 22) on MuchMusic (6 p.m.) and CTV (7:30 p.m.). Encore presentations of Justin Bieber: Home for the Holidays will follow.

The stage setting was a sort of Victorian street scene, with Christmas trees aplenty and stars and a moon overhead. The acoustic evening got off to a bumpy start: The hit single Baby endured a false start, and there was confusion as to whether Christmas Eve or Christmas Love would come next. (It was the latter.) The set list, as would be expected, drew chiefly from the Bieber’s latest album (the big-selling Under the Mistletoe) as well as 2010’s My Worlds Acoustic, a package of stripped down hits. The material was emotive and simply arranged for guitar and voice – Stratford, Ont.’s favourite son supplying the latter. A candy-apple red piano was used for a couple of numbers, including the poignant finale, Silent Night.

For a medley of Never Let You Go, a cover of the hip hop superstar Drake’s Trust Issues and Favourite Girl, the former street-corner singer strummed a left-handed Gibson Hummingbird. “I’m gonna get my guitar, if that’s cool,” he had politely asked, as he left his stool to get his instrument.

A boyish, innocent-looking 17-year-old superstar, Bieber is a slight fellow – his red-and-black checked lumberjack shirt and jeans hung from him if as if he were an undernourished scarecrow.

A small Canadian flag hung limply from his back pocket. Twelve-year-old girls paid that no mind, but others might have found his patriotism flip.

The “home for the holidays” conceit played out adorably: family members in the crowd included Bieber’s three-year-old stepsister, who was brought on stage late to help sing a second snippet of Baby. It was too cute for words, unless that word was mawkish.

“Are you guys ready for my next album?” Bieber asked at one point. We learned that he is writing material, including the song Be Alright, which may or may not be on his next album. It was an impassioned ballad, set to a mid-tempo tempo and built around a percussive guitar riff. “I’ll always be there for you,” Bieber crooned, his voice supple but with a slightly harder timbre than he possessed 18 months ago.

Bieber brought one young girl on stage, having her help with the vocals on Never Say Never. Her parting gift was a signed acoustic guitar.

Later he told his adoring throng of girlies and small children that he was a “normal person.” He said he wasn’t perfect, but that we all should be the best we can be. To strive for new goals and trust your parents was his advice. Corny, coming from a kid? Sure. But Bieber’s mother, who was in the crowd, would have never dreamed of the way her son has turned out.

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