Justin Timberlake, O2 Arena, review
The Telegraph — I’ve got a secret to tell you. The greatest music comeback of 2013 wasn’t David Bowie’s. It was Justin Timberlake’s. Seven years after the American singer’s 10-million selling second album FutureSex/LoveSounds, last year’s two-part 20-20 Experience was like a gust of fresh air, blowing aside the dominance of Electronic Dance Music in contemporary pop. The albums developed a sort of prog soul-pop, with winding song cycles full of texture and intricacy, welded together with primary coloured hooks. Coupled with an airy cameo in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, this completed Timberlake’s 12-year transformation from ginger-permed member of boy band *N Sync to pop culture sophisticate.
This 30-song O2 Arena extravaganza, part of a year-long world tour, confirmed Timberlake as pop’s leading light. The 33-year-old gave a two-hour masterclass in the art of arena performance: all soaring vocals, choreography, stagecraft and immaculate pacing. The night began with Timberlake singing a cappella, his voice clear and crisp, before his huge live band, the “Tennessee Kids”, rose from below the stage and tore into the lithe electric-soul thrust of Pusher Love Girl. The crowd stood as one.
Timberlake resisted the temptation to overload his set with newer songs, giving hits such as 2002’s Rock Your Body and 2006’s My Love early showings. Dressed in a slick tuxedo and penny loafers, and singing with a deft falsetto, at times Timberlake seemed like the lovechild of Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, with a dash of Purple Rain-era Prince added by the rocking live arrangements.
There’s nothing virtuoso about Timberlake — and yet, he has such magnetism. Head cocked, eyebrow raised and hip protruding insouciantly, there was an arrogance to him that was far preferable to the usual gushing gratitude affected by pop stars.
After the spacey, hypnotic glow of LoveStoned ebbed away, the first half of the show ended with the imperious Cry Me A River, Timberlake’s barely-concealed kiss-off to former girlfriend Britney Spears, which swelled to a gospel rock crescendo. It was all exhilarating, drilled to perfection: a pop juggernaut locked in top gear.
The second half was looser. Timberlake, now in trainers and open-necked shirt, strapped on a guitar for Drink You Away, a new track with a rootsy southern blues bite. During a samba-tinged Let the Groove Get In, a platform extended above the stage and edged forwards over the crowd, giving fans a chance to snap priceless selfies.
Covers of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature were pleasantly understated interludes, before the juggernaut started up again for a surge to the finish line. The swooning finale was provided by R&B ballad Mirrors, a number one single last year. With any luck we won’t have to wait seven years to bask in Timberlake’s reflected glory.
Justin Timberlake shows he’s still got the moves as he takes to the stage at London’s O2 Arena
Mail — There was no doubt Justin Timberlake had the moves when he took the stage at London’s 02 Arena on Tuesday night.
Looking sharp in a suit and bowtie – the singer wowed the crowd and showed no signs of slowing down, despite being halfway into his massive world tour.
The 33-year-old lit up the stage with his trademark crooning and dance moves much to the audiences delight.
Smooth mover: Justin Timberlake wowed the crowds when he took to the stage for his gig at O2’s London Arena on Tuesday night
Justin looked dashing in a three-piece tuxedo; a charming look that was topped off with a bow-tie and slicked back hair.
After a grand entrance, the charismatic showman was joined by an orchestra and several backup dancers before performing his biggest hits.
The music was only half the show, as Justin’s dancing was just as much a spectacle.
The Guardian’s Dave Simpson said of the show in Sheffield the night before: ‘he moonwalks Jacko style…performs dazzling reverse spins and…moonwalks and groin thrusts at the same time.’
The former N’Sync frontman wrapped the U.S. leg of his 20/20 Experience World Tour earlier this month, and arrived in the UK with Biel, 32, on Sunday.
After a second performance at the O2 Arena on Wednesday night he’ll tour the rest of Europe before hitting the United Arab Emirates.
He’ll then do another short stint in the US and then finish up the world tour in Australia and New Zealand in October.
Justin Timberlake Hits London’s O2 Arena
MTV — After bringing the UK leg of his 20/20 Experience tour to Sheffield the night before, it was London’s turn to welcome Justin Timberlake and his band The Tennessee Kids to the capital (April 1)… And one thing was for sure, crowds at The O2 Arena were more than ready to bring SexyBack…
Feeling: With no support act, we eagerly awaited the arrival of Mr. JT – and one thing was clear from the start, tonight belonged to the Mirrors man and he wasn’t about to share the spotlight. As the countdown clock begun, a huge silhouette of Timberlake was projected on an even bigger back drop – with fans almost lifting the roof off the arena in excitement as Justin emerged. Seeing as it was April Fools’ Day we’d all fallen for the prank – he was standing there for quite a while.
The Look: Rocking his now-trademark Suit & Tie, Justin looked every inch the dapper show-man we have come to know since his comeback, acting as a sort of conductor for his orchestra (and of course the crowd). For Act 2 (yep, there was an interval!) he changed into something a little more comfortable, swapping his shiny shoes for sneakers and his tuxedo for a smart blazer. The stage was just as impressive as the man himself, with huge honeycomb style screens dominating the venue, giving a truly impressive setting.
Tunes: Where do we start?! With an impressive back catalogue such as Justin’s (30 songs featured), the audience were taken on a journey from his Justified days (with Rock Your Body, Cry Me A River and debut smash Like I Love You sounding as fresh as ever) to the FutureSex/Love Sounds era as the sounds of My Love, What Goes Around… Comes Around and of course, SexyBack echoed around the arena – with the crowd loving every minute. Moving on to The 20/20 Experience, Pusher Love Girl kicked off proceedings, while TKO, Take Back The Night, Suit & Tie and Mirrors (which he closed the show with) going down a storm. As well as his own hits, JT’s show also included a variety of covers, including his chorus on Jay-Z’s Holy Grail and King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel.
Banter: Timberlake was very keen to “carry on the party” throughout his storming set, regularly interacting with his audience. The star really showed off his personality when trying to explain his decision to have a half-time break, stating that it was a good for his fans to “get a drink”, adding: “I was 26 last time I toured here, I’m 33 now – I need that break! We do like to drink here right? This is London?” But, to truly sum-up his views when it comes to on-stage banter, in the words of JT himself: “I’m all for small talk but f**k all that… let’s get on with the party!”
Sweat Factor: Things got a little hot under JT’s shirt collar thanks to his energetic dance routines, proving that despite being 33, he’s still got the moves. His crotch grab during Like I Love You also went down a storm with the crowd for obvious reasons, leaving many of the red-blooded women (and men!) lusting over Timberlake.
Summary: Justin proved he is still one of the most talent performers around, from his effortless piano interlude to his fast paced dance routines, here is an artist who truly has it all… we can’t wait to see what surprises JT has up his sleeves at V Festival later this summer!
Pusher Love Girl
Rock Your Body
Like I Love You
Until the End of Time
Cry Me a River
Only When I Walk Away
Drink You Away
Let the Groove Get In
Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley cover)
Not a Bad Thing
Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover)
What Goes Around… Comes Around
Take Back the Night
Jungle Boogie (Kool & The Gang cover)
Poison (Bell Biv DeVoe cover)
Suit & Tie
The singer’s infectious enthusiasm carried itself to all corners of the arena
THE FINANCIAL TIMES — If the ridiculous Robin Thicke, author of last year’s “rapey” hit single “Blurred Lines”, were to aspire to discover how to be sexy but not sleazy, how to make music that effortlessly crosses the boundaries between black and white, between R&B and pop, how to present a cracking live show, and how, in general, to be a thoroughly cool chap, he would do well to make a special study of Justin Timberlake. The two men occupy similar places on the musical/demographic spectrum, but the gulf in class (in all senses) between them is vast. Unlike the cheesy Thicke, Timberlake comes across on stage as a genuine guy, a man who loves his music and relishes performing, and it was this infectious enthusiasm that carried itself to all corners of an O2 Arena that too often can seem like a vast temple devoted to the cult of the in-seat cup-holder.
This was the first of two nights in London for the Memphis-born singer; tickets were expensive, some more than £100, but Timberlake’s people hadn’t stinted on the budget. This was a show that gave a good return on investment, and which, crucially, unlike too many of today’s slimline roadshows, featured a really substantial band. As the show built up a head of steam, the musicians simmered and cooked and occasionally reached a rolling boil. Timberlake’s high-register voice, meanwhile, was sweet and true, his movement slinky and languid.
Equally impressive was a new development in the super-competitive business of arena pop: a raised, wheeled platform that covered the width of the ground floor seating area and which at one point progressed the length of the arena at a stately Thunderbirds pace, carrying the star of the show and his backing singers over the heads of the crowd and delivering them to a smaller satellite stage at the rear of the hall. Cool.
Tune-wise, the highlights were the insistent “Like I Love You” (though slightly overblown: this is a song that’s best stripped down), a fabulously groovy “TKO”, a tribute to his fellow Deep Southerner Elvis in the shape of “Heartbreak Hotel”, the epic, dramatic “Cry Me a River” and an exuberant “Suit & Tie”. Momentum was allowed to slip at times, especially during a needless piano-ballad interlude, and the show would benefit from some rap input. But as the evening reached the final straight, the band kicked up a gear, the crowd became feverishly excitable, and there was a palpable sense of ensemble among the musicians, singers and dancers on stage. Simply: it was fun.
Prince George Gets a Justin Timberlake Shout-Out
Vanity Fair — As the royal family prepares for its Australian tour, beginning Monday, Prince George is getting even more global attention. During a concert at the O2 Arena tour in London, Justin Timberlake toasted the tot, saying, “Here’s to the new baby!” When the audience offered a muted response, perhaps wondering if he was making an announcement regarding Jessica Biel, he clarified, “George, you motherf*ckers”. Delightful.
an evening of “unrelenting class”
The Guardian — Justin Timberlake will not be playing, announces a man from the lip of the stage, rubbing the back of his own neck ruefully. JT’s been battling laryngitis; doctors have decided he should not perform. But a replacement has been lined up for tonight’s performance — and it’s Tom Jones!
This lamest of April fools tricks no one, least of all those sitting in the swanky VIP Experience lounge bar in the middle of the audience, supping cocktails at little tables. Timberlake is soon with us, in silhouette, as brass fanfares around him; his voice, in perfect condition, jackknifes from yearning falsetto to toned tenor to staccato rapping for more than two hours. The April fool, meanwhile, is one of only three tiny lapses of judgment in an evening of otherwise unrelenting class — pop so good we probably need a new name for the stuff, to distinguish it from the piffle by numbers atop the charts (She Looks So Perfect by Aussie boy band 5 Seconds of Summer, at the time of writing).
It seems unfair to pick any lint at all from a set that takes a decade of top-calibre pop R&B, rewinds it gloriously to the era of rhythm & blues big bands and adds a Tennessee flavour. Rock Your Body is an early audiovisual thrill, sinuous and dazzling. The back wall of the stage is a giant flattened beehive divided up into pulsating white hexagons, serving as a light show or a screen, or the rippling skin on a bass bin. JT’s oldest solo hit Like I Love You is utterly transformed by the surfeit of able musicians. “Drummmms!” Timberlake declares, activating two percussionists like he’s flicking a switch. But it’s precisely because Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience is so spectacularly focused, so gleaming, that the tiny specks stand out.
Really, Timberlake should not say: “I’m a London bloke” in a Dick Van Dyke accent (even if, at a distance, Timberlake does look like David Beckham, and if Timberlake might actually be slyly quoting Jay-Z or Kanye West’s rap on Estelle’s American Boy). And why is a dairy-white grand piano rising from the bowels of the stage, ready for a cliched piano ballad moment, Until the End of Time? The 20/20 Experience — more satisfying, end to end, than the double album in two parts from which it takes its name — otherwise displays a total intolerance for stadium-pop cheese.
Timberlake is, instead, a glutton for funk showmanship — an older and much more exacting tradition. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the tuba player auditions. The brass section and backing vocalists of Timberlake’s 15-strong Tennessee Kids big band can not only dance, they never actually stop jiving or twirling trumpets. There is a spectacular moment at the climax of Holy Grail — Timberlake’s show-stealing guest spot on the last Jay-Z record — where it slips seamlessly into Cry Me a River and then back again. Up front, Timberlake is surrounded by guitarists, strafing the audience top to bottom, all in time, while the entire rest of the band (plus six dancers) are arrayed behind them like a battalion, slapping their arms down, hip-hop style, also in perfect split-second sync.
He spoils us, basically. The set’s luxuriant opener, Pusha Love Girl, explores every alternative arrangement possible for a good 10 minutes. “You got me hopped up on it,” squeals Timberlake, tapping his outstretched arm like a dope fiend. The intelligence and economy of Timberlake’s dance moves are worth a Luke Jennings review of their own: twirls, moonwalks and tiny little twitches, in cahoots with flurries of percussion or changes in lighting.
How has this excellence happened? Timberlake, 33, started out as just more boy band cannon fodder. Since leaving NSync, his solo career has read like a manual on how to transcend expectation. Timberlake’s hit rate in the singles may have declined of late, but his cultural game has stepped up incrementally, with assured film roles (The Social Network, among others), comedy turns (Saturday Night Live doesn’t suffer fools) and a body of work that just seems to keep finding extra folds in the fabric of pop. There are no confetti cannons or fireworks tonight. Very little is gratuitous or pointless. For two hours everything is pretty much justified.
Justin Timberlake live is often a more-than-PG-rated experience
Digital Spy — If the somewhat lukewarm reaction to the second instalment of Justin Timberlake’s studio return – last year’s The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 – left the unexpectedly sour taste that the former ‘N Sync man may have fallen from the all-singing, all-dancing perfect popstar perch he once occupied, then tonight is when JT shows a firm middle finger to the doubters.
As the computerised pulses of behemoth dancefloor anthem ‘SexyBack’ bring the two-hour set (the first of two nights at the London venue and the start of an extensive tour) nearly to a close, there’s a moment when the music pauses just long enough for Timberlake, having seemingly barely broken a sweat, to look the arena dead in the eyes. “I still run this bitch,” he smirks with the knowing grin of someone at the peak of their power, before kicking back into the track as if nothing happened. It’s a brief second of overblown, playful, cocky genius (everything a popstar should be) and, for the 120 minutes previous to this, Justin justifies the brag entirely.
Emerging onto a sleek, monochrome set complete with big-band-style plinths, a full band, brass section, backing singers, suit-clad dancers and a screen showing various shots that resemble a high-end car commercial, ‘The 20/20 Experience Live’ is visually like Michael Jackson pulling a Sinatra. Of course, Sinatra likely didn’t have a portion of the stage on wheels that elevated, Transformer-style, allowing the singer to move up and down the venue, passing over screaming fans’ heads like a smiling pop god, but let’s not dwell on the specifics. Timberlake, meanwhile, opts for two simple outfits – a black and white suit and a black and black suit. It’s an aesthetic that represents the entire show: slick and classy, but persistently laced with a very evident sexual throb.
See, despite the large and very audible quota of giddy prepubescent girls here, JT live is often a more-than-PG-rated experience. Aside from the obvious lyrical fixations of opener ‘Pusher Love Girl’ (which equates the object of his lust to an addictive drug dealer), we get ‘Tunnel Vision’ – backed by a screen showing various topless, writhing females – and ‘Drink You Away’ – preceded by a long spiel about how fun it is to get drunk. If this were Robin Thicke, there would be outrage, but as the kind of guy your mother would approve of, Timberlake’s wholesome hometown-boy appeal keeps it just on the right side of risqué.
As for the set, it rarely falters. An early cluster of ‘Rock Your Body’, ‘FutureSex/LoveSound’, ‘Like I Love You’ and a revamped ‘My Love’ (opening with a stripped-back, spotlit piano before dropping the beat) segue seamlessly into each other, the singer only stopping to gee up the crowd further at opportune intervals, while first half set-closer ‘Cry Me a River’ is still the best thing he’s ever done. ‘Until the End of Time’ sees the singer take to a huge, white grand piano, and covers of Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ find him strumming an acoustic guitar, while the singer even raps (and well) at various intervals.
But if there’s one thing Justin really can do, it’s dance. And tonight the immaculately choreographed routines that dominate the set are so flawlessly fluid it’s as though his entire body is made of liquid. Not for nothing has JT been dubbed the new MJ.
He finishes with ‘Suit & Tie’, ‘SexyBack’ and recent sing-a-long anthem ‘Mirrors’, having mined two hours of one of the most prolifically hit-packed pop careers in recent times. No one is in any doubt that Justin does, indeed, still run this bitch.
Justin Timberlake hits the high notes
London Evening Standard — Is there a more complete popstar than Justin Timberlake? On the basis of last night’s scintillating show at the O2, it’s hard to think of one. He sings, he dances, he writes great songs — and, at 33, he’s demonstrated a longevity that his Disney Club contemporaries could only dream of.
Here as part of his 20/20 Experience Tour, the former N-Sync star was quick to pay his respects to London, describing it as “one of the greatest cities in the world” and “my home away from home”.
The Memphis man certainly seemed at ease in the capital’s largest indoor arena, singing set opener Pusher Love Girl largely unaccompanied. Elsewhere, on Cry Me A River, he proved that some males can multitask, juggling complex dance moves with expansive vocals.
But this was far from a one-man show. The Tennessee Kids, Timberlake’s 15-strong backing band, artfully re-jigged the hits, making old songs sound fresh. My Love built from plaintive piano to an ear-bleeding guitar solo, Rock Your Body was given a horn-heavy makeover and Summer Love was bolstered by big beats.
Timberlake, too, has subtly developed as a performer. He can still hit the high notes and gyrate with the best of them, as amply proven on the Latin-infused Like I Love You, but he also played piano on Señorita and acoustic guitar on the boozy country-rock of Drink You Away.
In lesser hands, covers of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature and Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel would have proven fatal. Last night, they soared.
Add to this a dazzling lightshow and a moveable stage that made everybody feel like they were in the front row, and you had the makings of a near-perfect gig.
Simply put, this is how to do arena shows.