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Justin Bieber Hosts an Intimate, Acoustic Winter Wonderland

Singer debuts new material, raises $500,000 for charity

December 22, 2011 2:00 PM ET
Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber plays acoustic Christmas show at Toronto’s Legendary Massey Hall.
Courtesy of MuchMusic/George Pimentel for WireImage

Pop heartthrob Justin Bieber delivered a Christmas miracle to his young fans last night with a rare, intimate theater concert at Toronto's Massey Hall. The acoustic performance was taped for the Canadian television special Justin Bieber: Home for the Holidays, which airs tonight on MuchMusic/CTV, and proceeds from the sold-out night went to Children’s Wish Foundation, via the singer's own Believe Charity Drive.

On a wintry stage replete with festive trees, fake snow, massive wreaths and giant stars, the 17-year-old teen idol delivered a nearly two-hour set, accompanied only by longtime guitarist Dan Kanter (who also played a gorgeous red grand piano). Bieber clearly predicted that their acoustic renditions could be drowned out by the nonstop screams of the nearly 3,000 young ladies (and their parents) in the audience; after kicking off the show with his massive hit “Baby,” the singer sweetly but firmly asked the shrieking crowd to pipe down for the rest of the concert. “I know you are used to screaming every second,” he said, “but I want you to listen.” Impressively, they abided – for the most part.

Bieber's set captured the holiday season well; his voice was soulful and strong in the unembellished setting, and he dressed the part in a toque and red-and-black lumberjack shirt, a Canadian flag dangling from his pants pocket. He sang a good portion of his new Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, including “Christmas Eve,” “Christmas Love,” “All I Want for Christmas is You" and an a capella version of “Fa La La.” He also threw in songs from his hit albums My World and My World 2.0, such as “Favorite Girl,” “Common Denominator” (for which he admitted to needing a lyrical cheat-sheet), a reggae-style version of “Somebody to Love” and an unveiling of the freshly-written “Be Alright.” He also tossed in covers of Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” and Matchbox Twenty’s “3 a.m.,” one of the songs he posted on YouTube before he was signed to a major label.

Always the charmer, Bieber offered plenty of genial, Christmas-related banter. However, when he went off course and talked about his runny nose or brought a disbelieving fan up to duet on “Never Say Never” (and gave her a signed guitar), that was when the night truly captured the “no pressure,” “sitting around a campfire” dynamic he repeatedly claimed that he wanted. He even brought his little sister onstage for a few minutes, holding her in his arms as he asked cute questions and got her to "sing" (as only three-year-olds can).

The evening concluded on a high note as Bieber presented a check for $500,000 (Canadian) to the Children's Wish Foundation. As they exited the hall, his youthful audience members were so ecstatic, it seemed clear that no other present could top their evening.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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