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With his megastar status, it can be easy to forget that Justin Timberlake is a seriously talented musician and performer. Anyone lucky enough to see last night’s gig in Sydney won’t be forgetting that any time soon. Not only was the show hugely energetic and visually exciting, as any good pop show should be, Timberlake demonstrated his adroitness by covering a range of musical styles while simultaneously engaging with the hundreds of people in the room.
The evening started with the Common Kings, which unfortunately I did not see. I did hear their last song as I cursed traffic and parking for my lateness. The DJ was then tasked with hyping the audience that was still slowly trickling in. It was certainly interesting watching people dancing for upgrades to the coveted VIP section.
The arena was almost full when the lights dimmed and abstract images of optometry equipment — this is The 20/20 Experience after all — were projected on the white honeycomb backdrop, a welcome relief from the usual video screens and LED projections. The stunning visual effects using pre-recorded and live videos, along with lighting, integrated seamlessly into the performance throughout the night.
Appearing in silhouette to shattering screams, JT kicked things of with Pusher Love Girl from his most recent album, with the band rising out of the stage soon after the orchestral start. I have to admit, even though I’ve always seen myself as being “all about the music”, I was a little star struck, almost to the point to thinking he pointed at me in particular… Swoon!
Timberlake’s band, the Tennessee Kids, created a depth and complexity to the set, and the arrangements of the songs deviated sufficiently from the recorded versions to make the familiar feel fresh and interesting. Together they worked through hits from Timberlake’s first two albums (Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds), with the dancers and Timberlake even incorporating some of the moves from the original music videos (at least, that’s what my friend pointed out).
Hearing some of my favourites like Rock Your Body and Like I Love You definitely took me back to my younger days, but for me the best number of the show was My Love. As Timberlake deftly traversed musical styles I was, like many around me, completely enthralled.
Dressed in a black suit over an interesting choice of black T-shirt with lightning bolts, which looked almost like a tribal neckpiece, Timberlake was comfortable in front of his neat casual band. Black and white was the theme of the evening, matching the palette established since the first 20/20 Experience single Suit & Tie.
Some little banter, with a pretty good attempt at an Aussie accent, was interspersed between a few more songs, including personal favourite Summer Love. The crowd took a little while to remember the words, inducing a little staged panic in the star. The first half of the set wrapped with Cry Me a River, mashed up with a little bit of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The second half opened with a pretty laser show and more of Timberlake’s faultless falsetto, accompanied by an ever enthusiastic Tennessee Kids. Songs like Tunnel Vision and Senorita preceded a dramatic platform rise, Timberlake and his four back-up singers atop.
The platform, with stairs at either end, floated across the crowd to Let the Groove Get In, and Timberlake thrilled fans by getting a bit more up close. The Tennessee Kids continued with a blues jam as JT greeted his fans. This morphed into an Elvis tribute — another (almost) Tennessee native — with a cover of Heartbreak Hotel.
Another tribute followed with a cover of Human Nature for the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. A quiet version of What Goes Around…Comes Around followed, which merged into a full throttle coda as the performers moved back onto the platform to be transferred onto the main stage.
The set closed out with Suit & Tie, before an amazing encore of Sexy Back and Mirrors finished the night on yet another high.
Keeping the band at the centre of this show really worked for Timberlake. The full sound and the creativity of the musicians boosted Timberlake’s familiarr three album repertoire. I just hope he doesn’t wait seven years before he comes back again.
The only downside of the night? Despite multiple requests for Dick in a Box, it did not make the set list.
Justin Timberlake’s Australian tour wraps up in Perth next week.
Image: Justin Timberlake Live @ Allphones Arena, Sydney Last Night / Photo By Ashley Mar