Justin Timberlake puts on sexy spectacle for Rose Garden crowd
Portland apparently wanted sexy back, if the crowd of mostly young women tonight at the Rose Garden could be trusted.
From the moment Justin Timberlake stepped onstage at 8:54 p.m., except for an intermission, the screaming barely paused. Through a show well-choreographed in every sense, Timberlake proved to any doubters that he’s earned the musical cred he has strived for since his boy band days.
He offered a rare spectacle in a town better known for guitar-based indie rock than highly produced, commercially oriented fare: a large-scale show complete with high-energy dancers, slick stage design featuring rising and falling translucent screens and an overtly sexual charge.
Like several of his pop contemporaries, Timberlake started his climb up the fame ladder with “The Mickey Mouse Club,” which carried him to the boy band ‘N Sync. Though the band’s five members drew their share of critical bull’s-eyes, they ultimately earned kudos from some who had once dissed them.
Timberlake has been ‘N Sync’s graduate with the highest profile, the strongest career and, after two solo albums, the most credibility in his own right. His most recent album, last year’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” gave his boyish image a sheen of sex, a pronounced appeal to young women, going by tonight’s crowd.
Clearly, Timberlake learned from his ‘N Sync days. The boy band choreography laid the basis for his liquid moves, smooth enough to hold his own among the surrounding dancers, and he retains some of the glossy production aesthetic. Still, he’s both smart enough and accomplished enough a musician to push past the formulaic pop that characterized the boy band boom of the ’90s and early ’00s.
The downside to his kind of show is the loss of spontaneity that comes with a clockwork-run production. But then, the music was only part of the point of the show. There was the entertainment value of watching attractive people put themselves through athletic moves, as well as the reflected star power of Timberlake’s utter confidence on stage.
That packaging may also be part of his ‘N Sync inheritance. His music might carry the illusion of intimacy, particularly the sexual kind, but it’s certainly not personal. And if that’s the worst to be said of him, that leaves him leagues ahead of his peers.
Pop-punk band Good Charlotte proved a good choice of opener. The quintet have a goofy, boyish charm with a bouncy sound that’s heavy on the energy, low on the pensiveness – and they were quick to give Timberlake loads of props.
Their frequent mention of Timberlake’s name drew more and louder cheers than Good Charlotte’s performance, a fact the men seemed good-natured about. (Vocalist Joel Madden noted the large number of girls in the crowd. “You people look so good,” he added.)
The band played a 42-minute set, a mix of old and new material, though most carried the same bright beat that helped launch the band in the late ’90s. Their one more thoughtful song, “March On,” dedicated to the troops in Iraq, sounded out of place in their otherwise almost relentlessly uptempo set.
They weren’t world-changing, but really, all they had to do was hold the hordes off until JT got around to bringing sexy back. Which he most definitely did.