Rampant citywide rumours to the contrary, the Bieb didn’t show up to duet with his girlfriend. Or maybe he did and nobody noticed, since Selena Gomez was plenty magnetic enough to hold everyone’s attention at Rogers Arena Friday night. Whatever your opinion of the music, the 19-year-old Disney executive delivered a bright set to a stadium filled with braying, glow-stick waving tweens (of the female persuasion), all of it executed with Teutonic efficiency and a merciful respect for decent bedtimes.
As it turns out, Gomez can actually sing, hitting just enough flat notes during “The Way I Loved You” to clue us in to the fact she isn’t lip-syncing—something that many of us pondered, funnily enough, whenever she spoke. Or squeaked.
It was also during this number—coming about five songs into the set—when Gomez finally stood still for a moment, like a quivering and wounded prom queen in her glittery, scab-coloured ball gown. Prior to that, the singer and her team of four dancers bounced around a surprisingly spare stage (two staircases, a hydraulic lift, a personality-free band—that was it), powering through time-fillers like “Hit the Lights” and “Round and Round.
Things started to cook a little more with “We Are the Night”, lifted by an effective light show made up of neon blobs and a jangly guitar outro that miraculously squeezed another few decibels of screaming mania from the stands. (That’s what music used to sound like, kids!) What seemed at first like slightly chintzy production value began to appear quite elegant at this point. Things got even more impressive when Gomez re-emerged after a thumping “Love You Like a Love Song” in a sort of mauve sexy burka, and then started putting some unexpectedly raunchy moves on her dancers for “Bang, Bang, Bang”.
We probably could have done without the Britney Spears medley, but by the end of a 75-minute set, Selena Gomez and the Scene had managed to give a small nation of little girls an experience that'll keep them buzzing until the next album release.
The show wasn’t half bad for the parents, either—especially on superior numbers like “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know”, “Who Says” (which drew the biggest cheer), and a fine, Dubble Bubble-extreme version of Pilot’s “Magic” (points for good taste, Ms. Gomez.)
In the end, you got a bunch of perfectly serviceable pop songs crafted by a team of industry operatives in lab coats, and a band that can certainly kick out the jim-jams in a convincing enough fashion. More importantly, there seems to be no reason Gomez can’t turn her considerable charm into something with a bit more of a Timberlake type heft once she’s allowed to be an adult. If A Star is Born has taught us anything, it’s that her more famous other half is probably descending into alcoholism right now while she goes from strength to strength. That’s probably why he pulled the no-show.