TORONTO – With his long-awaited third album “Believe” days from dropping, Justin Bieber preached to the converted on Sunday night at a raucous MuchMusic Video Awards ceremony where a worshipping crowd shrieked at the very mention of the pop star’s name.
While it was his protege Carly Rae Jepsen whose three awards represented the night’s biggest haul, Bieber had the adoring crowd eating from his palm from his red-carpet entrance â€” when he approached with his adorable baby brother in his arms, bringing the throngs to a fever pitch of screamed swooning â€” to his show-closing performance.
And the fans were ready for him, ready with cardboard cutouts of his head held aloft, with marriage proposals scrawled on gigantic signs and with purple and red Bieber bands firmly affixed to their foreheads.
Earlier in the day, some industrious Bieber followers were even spotted trying to squeeze underneath fencing set up around the perimeter of the stage in the hopes of possibly catching a glimpse of the singer.
When the 18-year-old claimed his first award of the evening, the piercing squeals of the crowd reverberated for blocks.
“Thank you so much,” said Bieber, clad in a black T-shirt with a gold chain dangling from his neck. “I want to say thank you so much to my home. I want to say thank you to all my family, my fans, I wouldn’t be here without you guys.
“You guys are amazing, I love you.”
Well, the feeling was obviously mutual.
And even Bieber-associated acts were feeling the love, as Jepsen â€” whose stock soared after a co-sign from the Stratford, Ont., native â€” continued her recent stellar run by taking three trophies (including the award for video of the year for her irresistible earworm “Call Me Maybe”) while also storming the stage for multiple performances.
“Oh, it’s very heavy!” said the Mission B.C., native as she raised her first award, before reeling off a series of thank-yous that included Bieber â€” a mention that merited the obligatory shriek from the crowd on hand.
“Thank you so, so, so much.”
Marianas Trench and Katy Perry were both double winners while Drake, the Sheepdogs and City and Colour also reeled in trophies â€” but of course, the MMVAs are never really about the hardware, are they?
This show was once a booze-fuelled, recklessly raucous bash where the lack of structure gave the sense anything could happen at any time â€” and whether it was a triumph or disaster, it was interesting live TV. But the MMVAs cleaned up their act in recent years, opting for a more tame experience headlined by PG-rated hosts including Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.
Well, it was clear from outrageous party-pop duo LMFAO’s proudly profane opening medley that this year was going to be different.
With inflatable zebras and a dancer clad in a pink plush bear costume at their side, the evening’s co-hosts blitzed through a medley of their hits beginning with “Party Rock Anthem” and ending with “Sexy and I Know It” â€” a claim that the pair’s Redfoo seemingly tried to prove by stripping to a shiny thong by song’s end.
Later â€” while claiming the award for international video of the year by a group â€” the group’s other half, SkyBlu, dangled the microphone from his crotch for a few starkly suggestive moments.
Elsewhere, burly pop-rapper Flo Rida performed his upbeat hit “Good Feeling” shirtless while surrounded by scantily clad dancers, and Victoria songstress Nelly Furtado swivelled her hips through her latest dancefloor-baiting hit “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better).”
Not all of the show’s splashy stagecraft was dedicated to risque displays, however.
Pop bombshell Perry put in the most obviously ambitious performance. She began singing “Wide Awake” while perched atop a stage adorned with fake trees whose branches contained acrobatically manoeuvring dancers. Soon, she shed her gown of rags to reveal a glittering nude bodysuit â€” at which point she sprouted gigantic, colourful butterfly wings.
An eye-catching ensemble to be sure, though it seemed less appropriate when she took the stage later to accept the fan choice award for favourite international artist.
“Truthfully I had no idea I was going to win or I would have put on more clothes,” she said.
The ever-so-wholesome Jepsen began her unavoidable smash “Call Me Maybe” suspended in a swing shaped like a turquoise telephone while others opted for simpler performances, unusual for the typically ostentatious MMVAs.
“American Idol” victor Kelly Clarkson, with newly blond locks matching her golden voice, needed only some modest pyro to spotlight her hit “Stronger” while British breakout Ed Sheeran put in a contemplative take on his tune, “The A Team.”
Bieber likewise didn’t need any stage stunts to drive home the point during his show-closing performance of his new tune “All Around the World.” Clad all in red with sparkling lights affixed to his shoulders, Bieber strutted across the stage with a dozen white-dressed dancers around him before transitioning into his grown-up, chart-topping single “Boyfriend.”
The song’s non-threatening come-ons were catnip to the fans assembled, cameraphones in the air â€” some of whom were shown weeping in anticipation just before he took the stage â€” and Bieber was sure to be just as charming each and every time he addressed his faithful followers.
“With this album, I was really inspired by my fans,” he said. “Canada, I will always support you and always love you.”