Plenty of Bieber fans obviously anticipated the chaos that has so far characterised Autism Rocks Arena, arriving in the blazing heat up to four hours early. Queues on the Dubai-Al Ain Road were frustrating, but entry to the venue itself seemed relatively hassle-free, compared to the nightmare reports of previous gigs. So far so good.
In a surprising twist, Bieber was also on stage bang on 8pm to deafening screams from the crowd that continued throughout the night. The star merely had to sit down on the stage and take a nonchalant sip of water to whip the crowds into a frenzy.
That, however, was half the charm of the show. Bieber himself isn’t any spectacular performer. He’s clearly talented, but the dance numbers were carried by the energetic backing troupe, and his epic live band – which included an immensely talented drummer – were a highlight of the night.
Bieber dances, but seems more concerned with strutting around the stage and looking cool, and aside from a couple of acoustic tracks and his tour title song, Purpose (which comes with a brief motivational speech about everyone having purpose in life – one of the very few times he talks to the audience) he doesn’t actually appear to do a huge amount of singing.
That said, the majority of the audience seemed happy with merely his presence on the stage, and the atmosphere was electric throughout. Tiny kids, teens and adults alike screamed along to his songs, jumping and dancing with each other, and the noise only escalated when he brought out a group of kids for a dance routine, introducing each of them on the mic and giving them all a hug before they delightedly ran off stage. Good guy PR stunt, check.
All in all, it is a great show. The lights, lasers, dance numbers and, of course, Bieber himself, make for a pretty memorable evening. Perhaps not as memorable, however, as the chaos that ensued in the taxi queue afterwards.
The lack of any proper infrastructure, non-existent direction for taxis and standstill traffic on the Dubai-Al Ain Road meant that hundreds faced a more than two-hour wait for a taxi. The few taxis that did turn up were being flagged by concert-goers who tried to leave the venue on foot, and roads to the exit were clogged by crowds and utter confusion over the lack of clearly marked tracks.
Police turned up to try and keep things in order, but far too late. To give you an idea, we left the stands at 9.30pm, before Bieber had even finished his last song, and arrived back to Jumeirah at gone 1.30am. When we left, the taxi queue was still at least six long rows deep, with cars turning up sporadically every 15 minutes or so.
While the venue itself, once inside, is fantastic, serious work is needed on the surrounding infrastructure. Aside from the obvious hazards of such a disorganised and inaccessible venue, the concerts staged here are inevitably marred by the frustration of arriving and leaving.
With roughly six months to go before Ed Sheeran plays at Autism Rocks Arena, we can only hope that vast improvements are made in that time.