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Crónica e imágenes: «The 20/20 Experience» World Tour en Memphis, 18 de nov.

Concert Review: Justin Timberlake at FedExForum

Hispanic Business — Prior to last night at FedExForum, when Justin Timberlake and his large band performed a three-hour, 30-song tour de force before a rapt, sold-out crowd, it had been more than six years since the Memphis-bred megastar had played a public concert in his hometown.

That show, in the same building in August of 2007, came as Timberlake was riding the crest of his colossal second album, Future Sex/Love Sounds. Despite his stature, and the adoration of a crowd that had come for a coronation, Timberlake’s performance on that night was slightly marred by a palpable self-consciousness, as he labored, too transparently, to bury his teen-pop past.

Six years later, Timberlake returned to his hometown fans fully grown.

Timberlake first emerged, elevating from beneath the stage, at 9 p.m., suit-and-tie dapper in a white-on-black ensemble and provoking legitimately Elvisian screams from some of the women in the building. He then led his 11-piece band — augmented by four backup singers and, later, six dancers — through a surprisingly unadorned performance of «Pusher Love Girl», the slow-jam, falsetto funk lead track off 20/20 Experience, the first of his two chart-topping 2013 albums.

At the song’s conclusion, Timberlake put his hands in his pockets and stood for several beats, soaking in the adulation.

«Oh, it’s like that tonight, M-Town? Y’all feel some kind of way tonight, don’t you», Timberlake asked the crowd, before turning to look at his band. «I told you. My city, man».

This first thrust of the show was reminiscent of a different prior local Timberlake concert, the small club show he did at Beale Street’s New Daisy Theatre in the summer of 2006, where he played bandleader more than pop star. The first of Monday night’s two sets — separated by a brief intermission — was Timberlake returning with a successful attempt to take that club show and blow it up to arena-sized proportions.

Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley were the pop icons Timberlake was most compared to in his ascendance, and his direct invocation of both later in the night was a testament to his current confidence and comfort. But the style of these initial performances instead suggested a mix of Rat Pack and James Brown.

The second set, for which Timberlake symbolically changed into a black jacket, began with the slinky, swaggering rock of «Only When I Walk Away». The staging grew more elaborate in this set, including a portion of the stage that lifted off the floor and transported Timberlake and his singers and dancers across the Forum expanse, over the heads of those with floor seats, and to a «VIP Lounge» area at the back of the arena. This second set also included a couple of laser-light shows Pink Floyd could only fantasize about. But even as spectacle competed with the music, the combination framed a showman who’s grown more commanding over time.

It can be difficult to transition studio-crafted pop to a live setting, and the results were understandably mixed. I’ve now heard Timberlake perform his early hit «Rock Your Body» at three concerts and it’s never been as bracing as in the original Neptunes’ production. But «Cry Me a River», with which Timberlake closed the opening set — «Are you ready?», he asked teasingly as the first, familiar notes bubbled up; we were — is a modern-pop masterpiece that was fully realized on stage.

Timberlake and his band similarly found every rich opening and twist in «My Love», bringing the song from a falsetto-and-piano opening to a duel-guitar finale, while a stripped-down second-set reading of his «What Goes Around ..». served one of his most durable songs well.

Some of Timberlake’s new material, particularly early in the second set, dragged, such as the throbbing «Thriller»-esque «True Blood», performed on a stage drenched in red. But the 2013 disco-fied hit «Take Back the Night» was improved in a live setting, with Timberlake getting sharp counterpoint from his horn section in a display that hinted at prime Prince.

Timberlake saluted his hometown throughout the night.

«Memphis is where I’m from», he said, pounding his chest. «It’s so good to be home. I’m just going to enjoy this for a minute. I want to take the opportunity to thank the city of Memphis for ‘JT Day.’ Mayor Wharton, it was a very nice gesture».

«As they say, it’s hard out here for a pimp, when you’re trying to get some money for the rent», Timberlake said in one song introduction, quoting the Oscar-winning song from Memphis director Craig Brewer’s «Hustle & Flow». Timberlake, who was in the cast for Brewer’s next film, «Black Snake Moan», then said, simply, «I love you Craig Brewer».

Timberlake strapped on an acoustic guitar for a cover of Elvis’ «Heartbreak Hotel»«Now, I’ve always wanted to do this» — and asked the crowd, at the end of the song, to «Give it up one time», for his Memphis-based guitarist, Elliott Ives.

«I couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming», Timberlake said after a mammoth performance of his arena-ready new anthem, «Mirrors». «This is one of the best nights of my life. I love this town».

Best Cover: Not «Heartbreak Hotel» or Michael Jackson’s «Human Nature», but «new jack swing» trio Bell Biv Devoe’s 1990 hit «Poison» for which Timberlake gave his two male backup singers equal billing, trading off verses and vintage dance moves. It was fun. It was generous. It showed off the band. And the crowd popped big time for the song.

Arena Action: I ran into guitarist Elliott Ives outside the arena before the show, where was trying to round-up his Tennessee Kids bandmates to squeeze into the local Amurica photo booth. Not sure if he pulled this off, but his excitement over the show to come was palpable.

The street scene around the arena and on Beale was bustling but unusually serene. It was downright pleasant. Maybe that had something to do with a crowd that, like Timberlake himself, skewed a little older than his previous Memphis concert. (Witness the reaction for «Poison».) There were lots of young adult couples in the pre-show line that snaked around the Forum plaza as if it had been designed by Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane. As one friend, himself a coupled young adult, joked before the show, «A lot of babysitters are getting paid in Memphis tonight».

Ties were legion in the pre-show crowd, but I only saw about a dozen suits on the night.

Grizzlies Synergy Copious.Timberlake’s not just a minority owner of FedExForum’s primary tenant. He’s a fan.

«It’s not every day you get to rock the Grindhouse. Let me show you my Tony Allen», Timberlake said, raising his arms in imitation of Allen’s familiar body-builder flex, before launching into«Summer Love».

The Grizzlies were in the first quarter of a road game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the time, and almost immediately after Timberlake’s Allen reference, my phone started blowing up with messages and tweets like this one from Clippers beat writer Dan Woike:

Which was in reference to this:

Timberlake donned a baby blue Grizzlies cap for the closing «Mirrors», in which a yellow Grizzlies growl towel from the crowd was shown on the screen behind him.

As the crowd emptied out just after midnight, scores of concertgoers gathered around the big screen in the concourse to watch the end of the Grizzlies-Clippers game, which, at one point, inspired a «Z-Bo! Z-Bo!» chant as the team’s burly, beloved power forward scored a victory-sealing basket. When in the Forum …

Timberlake receives a king’s welcome in Memphis concert

Hispanic Business — Half a dozen years after his last Memphis concert, Justin Timberlake returned to his hometown to perform and received the kind of welcome generally reserved for conquering kings and emperors in antiquity.

If the atmosphere surrounding Timberlake’s 2007 FedExForum show was electric, then the feeling heading into Monday night’s show at the venue was positively supercharged, as 15,000-plus packed the arena for an event that was part concert and part celebration of civic pride.

In recent years, the 32-year-old Millington-bred multihyphenate — singer, actor, media and business mogul — has further strengthened his ties to the Mid-South, becoming a minority owner of the Grizzlies, a local golf course magnate and the linchpin of a tequila line called 901.

Timberlake has strenuously built and promoted his connections to the city — to the point where, when President Barack Obama wanted to marshal a celebration of Memphis soul music at the White House this spring, he was among a group of artists that included such Stax Records icons as Mavis Staples, William Bell and Sam Moore.

On Monday, much of the Mid-South was aflutter with Timberlake mania, as the City of Memphis and the Convention and Visitors Bureau helped whip up a virtual frenzy by sponsoring an online «JT Day» campaign.

The festivities began in the morning as Mayor A C Wharton and CVB head Kevin Kane presented Timberlake’s mother, Lynn Bomar Harless, with a proclamation outside FedExForum, officially declaring it «Justin Timberlake Day».

Meanwhile, local businesses and government offices put up «JT Day» signs, as citizens lit up Facebook and Twitter with postings and pictures, including shots of themselves wearing Timberlake-inspired bow ties.

Amid all the excitement about the return of the Bluff City’s boy wonder, there remained the not-insignificant matter of Timberlake’s actual performance.

Following a six-year hiatus from music — most of it devoted to his second career as an actor — 2013 proved that Timberlake retains his standing as one of the biggest pop stars in the world. His two recent albums, The 20/20 Experience and The 20/20 Experience Part 2 — released in March and September, respectively — both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, en route to selling a combined 4 million copies worldwide (next month’s Grammy nominations are also expected to yield another big haul for Timberlake, who already has six awards on his mantel).

So it was a rather heightened sense of expectation that accompanied Timberlake as he took to the stage shortly after 9 p.m. for what would prove to be an epic multihour set before a buzzing capacity crowd.

«So it’s like that, M-Town?» asked a louche Timberlake, by way of introduction, after opening with «Pusher Love Girl». «You feeling a certain kind of way tonight, huh?»

With Timberlake outfitted in black-and-white formal wear and fronting a big band (replete with a horn section, backing singers and multiple drummers), the presentation had intimations of a classy old-school affair, but with enough sexual energy and edge to please the hip-hop generation.

As a performer, Timberlake is very much in the throwback mold. A rarity in contemporary entertainment culture, he is essentially a variety artist, a charming song-and-dance man, a light entertainer, and people-pleaser.

While Timberlake strove to be intimate and casual among his fellow Memphians, the show itself was anything but offhand.

In fact, he delayed the start of his tour last month to tune up with a series of exhaustive rehearsals at Southaven’s Landers Center. The work seemed to have paid off as the staging — featuring a technically complex, cinematically influenced series of set pieces — offered a crisp and compelling mix of audio and visual extravagance.

The backing musicians — billed as The Tennessee Kids, and anchored by another Memphian, guitarist Elliott Ives — were augmented by a troupe of dancers whom Timberlake cavorted with and engaged in a series of well-choreographed performances.

Throughout the night, he played up a series of personas through his songs: as a soul man and crooner, R&B lothario and heartsick balladeer — but more than anything as a local boy done good, happily sharing the spoils of his success and celebrity with the place and the people that mean the most.

As the local love washed over him in the form of another prolonged ovation, he turned to his backing band and beamed proudly. «I told you», he said. «That’s my city, man».

Following the Memphis stop, Timberlake’s «20/20 Experience World Tour» continues Tuesday in St. Louis with more than 70 additional dates set to carry him around the globe through July 2014.

Bow ties take over Memphis on ‘Justin Timberlake Day’

WMC-TV — Mid-South music icon Justin Timberlake takes the stage Monday night at FedExForum and Memphis has big plans to honor the hometown entertainer.

More than 1,000 bow ties circulated the City of Memphis in anticipation of the concert. City officials declared Monday «Justin Timberlake Day» and encouraged fans to wear their favorite bow tie to celebrate.

«It’s really exciting to have the city name a day after your kid», said Timberlake’s mom, Lynn Harless.

Harless was at the center of the festivities in downtown Memphis when Mayor Wharton and others made Timberlake the latest ambassador of the city.

«You’ve heard them say, they will be led by a child. He’s leading us», Mayor Wharton said.

«I just can’t believe this day has come. I didn’t imagine it’d be this big. I’m very proud», added cousin Allison Campbell.

Mayor Wharton told those in the crowd that gospel music was Timberlake’s incubator, soul was his babysitter, blues served as his Pre-K instructor and rock and roll was his childhood friend.

Now, the entire Mid-South can celebrate this music icon.

«Being that its such a musically based city and to have such a talent in just one person, he can sing, he can dance, act, he’s got the ‘it’ factor», added Campbell.

Justin’s mother says the music superstar is never far from his Memphis roots.

«Whenever he’s in a dressing room, there’s always a stack of Grizzlies gear and always a stack of Tiger’s gear», Harless said.

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