Justin Timberlake review — comes alive when he brings SexyBack back
The Guardian — Neo-soul direction made for a ponderous set until singer hit his stride and found his groove in turn-of-the-century R&B. If Justin Timberlake’s patchy 2013 album The 20/20 Experience passed you by (and it certainly did me), you could be forgiven for thinking he’d become “former musical artist Justin Timberlake”, especially given his past five years dedicated to Hollywood.
The immense 20/20 Experience world tour, which stopped off on Thursday at Melbourne’s cavernous Etihad stadium, put paid to such notions. Indeed, with such an emphasis on vastness — in the volume of the bass, the size of the stage, a two-act set list, the presence of two drummers and a big band — it almost felt as though the experience was tailor-made to remind you of Timberlake’s musical prolificacy.
The set was comprised largely of hits — all of them — and a few album tracks, from 2002’s Justified to the album that shares the tour’s title.
Timberlake remains a charmingly earnest showman, so much so that occasional expletive-ridden exclamations from the now 33-year-old performer felt as embarrassing as they would had he unloaded them on the set of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club.
Beginning with the syrupy Pusher Love Girl, a 20/20 slow jam that makes me long for the glory days of Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra, Timberlake’s interaction with his big band the Tennessee Kids had the ease that only a never-ending tour can bring about (this one has been going since late 2013). After a thunderous round of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”, Timberlake wisely tore into a pair of classics: Rock Your Body and FutureSex/LoveSound, both of which saw the set spring into a visual symphony of colour and light.
The spectacle took place on a Perspex-trimmed stage, heavy with hydraulics that allowed the band (and a white baby grand) to materialise at will, while the white honeycomb backdrop and proscenium bedecked with Hype Williams-esque digital projection occasionally gave the impression that Timberlake had commandeered the Tet spaceship from the coldly stylish Oblivion.
The first act continued in a ponderous fashion until it ended with the icy masterpiece from Justified, Cry Me a River. Accompanied by bleak projections of tornado-whipped spacescapes, it was a welcome reprieve from 20/20’s blander neo-soul.
After a brief interval, Timberlake returned — initially in disembodied CGI avatar form — with a hypnotic laser show that signalled a lift in the energy levels, crucial as by that point anyone who wasn’t huddled in general admission like a colony of emperor penguins was shivering in the freezing Etihad.
If the set list dragged somewhat, the visual element was never less than dazzling — and the spaceship mood was amped to 11 when, in an extended take of Let the Groove Get In, the Perspex section of the stage began to ascend into the arena and crowd. It made Charlie Watts’ catwalking drum riser from the Rolling Stones’ Bigger Bang tour look like a modest trickery.
Despite the spectacular, the 20/20 Experience suffers from mixed metaphor. Older hits were freshened up with unnecessary prog-leaning guitar solos and drum duets, while Timberlake’s neo-soul direction (typified by the presence of the Tennessee Kids) seemed out of place amid a light show that might have been better suited to a prime-period Chemical Brothers set.
In fact, despite the mega-selling nature of his newer work, it was 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds that had the most synchronicity with the light and stage show, particularly the penultimate track, SexyBack. The futurist arrangements originally laid down by producers Timbaland and Danja were wisely left largely intact (except for a bewildering decision to present the glorious What Goes Around Comes Around as an acoustic torch song).
Not only that, but the choreography that accompanied those songs — more or less unchanged since the FutureSex/LoveShow tour and videos — allowed Timberlake to remind us there was a time when he seemed to be the natural heir to Michael Jackson — a point made all the more poignant by a brief cover of Human Nature.
By the time the two hour-plus set drew to a close, we were left thinking Timberlake should ditch his Thicke-isms and bandleader aspirations and return to the comforting, cold bosom of turn-of-the-century R&B. An anniversary tour featuring either Justified or FutureSex/LoveSounds performed in full would be a dream. What goes around comes around, after all.
He’s a mega (wattage) star! Justin Timberlake dons lightening bolt print shirt to deliver electric performance kicking off Australian leg of his world tour
Daily Mail — He’s known for his high-voltage on stage persona, delivering electric performances.
And kicking off the Australian leg of his 20/20 Experience World Tour in Melbourne American singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake turned up the mega wattage once more.
His first headlining tour in six years, the Suit and Tie singer tore up the stage at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday night, wearing a black shirt with a distinctive white lightening bolt print.
Stepping out in his slick Neil Barrett designed tour suit, the handsome 33-year-old oozed suave style, looking every inch a world class showman.
The nine-time Grammy winner added a jolt of street style teaming his dapper look with a pair of white trainers.
Known for his slick dance moves and sense of humour, the talented performer put his twinkle toes to use as he moved around the stage.
Bringing his own brand of sexy pop-soul-funk Down Under the 21st century entertainer put on an energetic display throwing his hands in the air and dancing with the audience.
Hair slicked back, Timberlake brought his boundless energy to the performance, working his way through the 30-song spectacle, which included tracks from his best-selling album, as well as chart toppers Cry Me a River, SexyBack and Senorita.
Returning to Australia for the first time in seven years, GQ’s 2013 Man Of The Year will also perform in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, before his final date in Perth on 9 October.
Jessica Biel’s other half is currently nearing the end of the year-long world tour that kicked off in New York in November 2013 and is expected to close in Atlanta in December.
Receiving stellar reviews from critics across the globe, the tour was launched to support his third and fourth studio albums The 20/20 Experience and The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2.
Timberlake took a hiatus from music to focus on his acting career in 2007 until 2012, when he starred in box office smash The Social Network, as well as flicks Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits.
Justin Timberlake review: Stale, underwhelming first half as Hawks fan saved the best for last
The Sunday Morning Herald — Shot glass in one hand, microphone in the other, Justin Timberlake declared himself a Hawks fan. For the true blue Melbourne audience, it was a turning point. The first half of Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour had been clunky, uneven and underwhelming but the ship was slowly turning itself around, aided by whiz bang audience interaction, a dose of wit and later on by strong vocal and instrumental performances. It really was a case of saving the best for last.
Last time Justin Timberlake graced Melbourne, it was immediately after bringing sexy back, in 2007 at the 15,000 seater Rod Laver. This time round it was in the significantly less acoustically pleasing, 53,000 seater, Etihad Stadium. In the intervening period, Timberlake has leveraged his monolith musical success to nab roles around Hollywood and on Saturday Night Live.
It was strange then that we had to wait 1.5 half hours into the 2.5 hour show for Timberlake to give away any of that trademark humour. Solid opening track Pusher Love Girl opened out to litany of early hits including Like I Love You and Rock Your Body from the 2002 break out album, Justified, followed by track from FutureSex/LoveSounds. A curious choice to load up the front of the show with old hits when the billing had well and truly been for his 2013 double CD release, The 20/20 Experience.
Despite this, LoveStoned was a highlight, as were the mesmerising video projections that went with it, a bold moment in a show that mostly felt stale. A cover of Jay-Z’s Holy Grail fading into Cry Me A River also proved fun.
Following the interval, things started picking up. A heavy-on-the-twang Drink You Away was both musically brilliant (with Timberlake on the guitar and ably supported by his full brass band, and back-up singers) and visually arresting. It was the highlight of the night.
Samba-inspired Let the Groove Get In introduced a spectacular moving stage part that carried JT and his singers over the audience. It was a hugely welcome element of the show, literally bridging the gap between artist and audience, ensuring all were on their feet. We were treated to yet more covers including Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. Mirrors and SexyBack were a fitting finale.
Ultimately this show lacked momentum. Transitions between songs were jarring and most of the excellent lasers and video projection did little to enhance the man. JT’s music name-checks Elvis and Drake and alights at every stop in between. Tighter direction would have let this diverse artist shine.
5 things we learnt at JustinTimberlake’s Melbourne show
faster louder — Dressed in suit and tie sneakers, Justin Timberlake breezed into Australia to pull off a stadium pop spectacular of the highest order. LACHLAN KANONIUK reports back with 20/20 vision.
1. Justin Timberlake is one smooth motherfucker
After a gaudy, pretentious widescreen cinematic countdown, the well-oiled 20/20 live experience unfolded with ludicrous scope. The man himself, centre stage, gradually joined by a Big Band with a capital, 72-point font “B” — labelled The Tennessee Kids — sprouted from underneath the stage. The mechanics were astounding. There’s the usual arena-pop trope of the artist elevating over the crowd, but JT took it to a whole new level. Eventually the centre of the stage lifted up from its base, carrying Justin and his backup singers to the rear of the stadium, like an elevated catwalk. An uncanny sense of intimacy was achieved despite the expanse of the arena. Calls of “I love you” from the crowd were met with “I fucking love you too!” A fan named Dee received a ‘Happy Birthday’ from tens of thousands, all while Justin laid down dangerous levels of charm.
2. Justin has waved bye bye bye (geddit?) to his N*Sync years
Even with a setlist spanning two-and-a-half hours and around 30 songs, JT didn’t need to pull out any cuts from his breakthrough boyband to fuel his marathon-length performance. The middling 20/20 Experience filled most of the setlist (the album’s only true highlight, ‘Mirrors’, closed out the encore) and the non-revelatory Timbaland production of the recordings is transformed into something more palatable with the benefit of the always on-point Tennessee Kids. The classics still came thick and fast — an electric piano rising from front-of-stage for the call-and-response glory of ‘Senorita’. ‘Cry Me A River’ immediately preceded the interval, while ‘What Goes Around’ received the acoustic treatment (JT can pluck!).
3. JTeezus just rose again
“I am a god / hurry up with my damn massage”. Justin dished out a touch of Yeezus during ‘Like I Love You’. The homages to musical icons continued throughout the night, some special, some not so special. The ‘Holy Grail’ mash-up intro to ‘Cry Me A River’ was wack. A cover of Bell Biv DeVoe’s ‘Posion’ was corny but cool. Tributes to Elvis (‘Heartbreak Hotel’) and the obvious benchmark for arena pop spectacular, MJ (‘Human Nature’) were solid. Repeated chants of “the roof is on fire!” were a tad on the naff side. ‘Jungle Boogie’ is irresistible good fun, no matter what the context.
4. JT doesn’t “fuck with Vegemite”
But he does fuck with footy finals! Though his shout-out to the Hawthorn Hawks (who are competing in the AFL prelim final this weekend) eliciting more jeers than cheers. The savvy bout of local-pandering came as Justin raised a toast — a shot procured during extended audience participation, including a brief bro-down with Rove (what the?!).
5. No doubt about it: he brought sexy back
‘SexyBack’ was always going to be the night’s crescendo. It exceeded anticipation, evolving into a monstrous jam as it tore open just after the tiniest of encore breaks. In spite of just releasing a bloated, pair of concept records, Timberlake can still boast one of the most awe-inspiring live pop performances, asserting himself as a candidate to carry MJ’s torch, light-years ahead of the other Justin.
SOCIAL REPORT: #JT2020TOUR MELBOURNE
Andy Hatton — As Justin and The Tennessee Kids kicked off The 20/20 Experience World Tour in full flair in Melbourne this week, we invited Manchester-UK-hailing, Melbourne-based photographer Andy Hatton to snap and write about the experience on Sept 18th, 2014. We were attracted to Andy’s “documentary style with a cinematic feel”. His artistic mission is to “use harsh light and dark shadows working in both colour and black and white…to portray the beauty and energy found in everyday life”. We love how he infused his film noir-style with #JT2020Tour setting – and his writing below transports you right to the space. What a kick off! Let’s keep this up Australia! And we want to hear your thoughts and experiences as well below in the comments!
The stadium lights go dark, the stage lights go up, a huge dark silhouetted figure engulfs the back wall of the stage, and everybody is screaming. Justin’s lone figure rises and stands tall, and from that moment on, he has the entire crowd in the palm of his hands. “Pusher Love Girl” blasts out of the stadium’s speakers and there are more mobile phone cameras in the air than I’ve ever seen before.
All the attention is on Mr Timberlake’s every move; he twists, he turns, he runs, he points, they scream. He takes a moment to stand and take in the atmosphere. It’s electric – what it must be like to stand up there every night and get that kind of reception, to be able to entertain that many people and have them be mesmerized by your every move…
It’s pretty evident Justin exudes confidence and rightly so: this man is the ultimate showman, backed up by the ultimate band, The Tennessee Kids. They rock the crowd throughout the night, hit after hit, “Like I love you”, “TKO”, “Holy Grail”, “Cry Me A River” and the crowd responds – screaming louder, dancing harder, singing every word. Everyone is in party mode and it’s pretty damn obvious that everyone is having a good time. My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to be in the 901 Sauza tequila lounge so the drinks were flowing and the party atmosphere was building.
Half way through the show, lights go out and there’s a 10 minute intermission. The staff start frantically wiping down the bar tops and a few checks are made on what looks like a stage/platform in the middle of the arena.
The show kicks off again and not long into the second set, a large perspex stage rises up and over the floor of the arena, with the crowd going wild as Justin and his team of dancers pass over head. Everyone in the arena gets a front row seat at some point in the night; even the people right at the back of the stadium would have had a ridiculously good view. Some stairs fold out and Justin walks down towards the platform followed by his dancers……and then they start dancing over all the bar tops! They’re all so close; people get hi-fives and hand shakes and the show starts to feel really intimate, which is hard to do in a stadium this size! Justin belts out some covers of Elvis and MJ and drinks a sneaky shot to kick on the party. “What Goes Around… Comes Around”. Justin is having a good time and so is the crowd.
The end of the night is closing in, but not before three classics are smashed out, “Suit & Tie”, “SexyBack” and finally “Mirrors”. The whole night confirms that Justin Timberlake is the biggest showman in the world right now; he oozes class, every man wants to be him, every woman wants to be with him. The lights go out, the show is done. No one is going home disappointed.
Review: Justin Timberlake, Melbourne, September 19
Take 4U — Justin Timberlake is probably the biggest male pop star of our generation. As part of N*SYNC and as a solo artist, JT has sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide – and it isn’t hard to see why, with his outstanding talent and exceptional showmanship.
The stage at Etihad Stadium was nearly all white, letting us know that we were in for something a little more high-brow. The audience was a great mix of men and woman, both young and older.
Justin Timberlake’s ‘Not A Bad Thing’ video searches for real-life engaged couple
From the very first song (‘Pusher Love Girl’) it was easy to see that JT has been taking notes from Beyonce – the lighting cues, dance style, instrumentation and arrangements all screamed Queen Bey… Is Justin the male Yonce?
Aside from the fact that Justin actually produced the song ‘Yonce’, he might just be the closest thing.
Highlights from the concert include that fact that he placed ALL his greatest hits, with crowd favourites including ‘Cry Me A River’, ‘Rock Your Body’ and ‘Summer Love’. Another highlight was when the front of the stage literally popped off and moved into the middle of the arena for an acoustic set. Very kewl.
Best song of the night by far was an energetic and gorgeous rendition of JT’s most recent hit ‘Mirrors’.
Justin effortlessly entertained us for 3 hours – even with the huge amount of audience participation, the Melbourne crowd showed no sign of low energy levels. The crowd loved every minute.
Now for the Ultimate Justin Timberlake video playlist!
Review: Justin Timberlake’s Melbourne gig is part soul revue, part spaceship
The Herald Sun — IT’S been seven years and ten movies since Justin Timberlake has toured Australia.
The upside of the American star putting film before music for so long?
Seeing him finally back on a stadium stage you realise just how much he was missed in the music world.
And his energy level and enthusiasm suggests he was away long enough to miss it too.
Timberlake, now 33, is your complete package pop star.
He writes the songs, sings them incredibly, can play them and busts suave Fred Astaire or synchronised Michael Jackson moves to suit them effortlessly.
His 20/20 Experience tour is now a streamlined Greatest Hits show, with a big band and huge stage that is part soul revue, part spaceship.
Timberlake has cherrypicked the best moments from the lengthy 20/20 Experience double albums.
So Suit and Tie, Mirrors, Pusher Love Girl and TKO sit in perfectly alongside old JT faves My Love, Senorita and What Goes Around.
And when Timberlake launches into his modern classics SexyBack, Like I Love You, Cry Me a River and Rock Your Body and causes immense, communal joy you hope he makes Hollywood wait a little bit longer. Between Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake we’ve had two of the benchmarks for today’s male performers in one week.
Timberlake performs at Etihad Stadium again Friday tonight.
Review: Justin Timberlake gig lacks clarity
The Courier Mail — CREDIT to Justin Timberlake, he doesn’t flood the market. He hasn’t toured here in seven years and he doesn’t bang out records every year.
And his show at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Friday certainly delivered a visual spectacle for the JT starved fans.
For the uninitiated, it’s Friday night dance floor music, the section of the market once dominated by Michael Jackson and now taken over by Pharrell Williams, with a pinch of Earth Wind and Fire and Prince for spice.
Timberlake doesn’t have the cheeky chappy charisma of a Robbie Williams and his stage chat is of the do you wanna party/wassup variety.
There is plenty of movement, colour and hits, from Rock Your Body to Sexyback, plus the usual big band and mega video screen expected at these events.
The thing that was missing was clarity, with a boomy sound that turned to mud as the volume rose.
Nice snare drum, sure, but is it too much to ask to hear some definition from the brass, bass and keyboards too?
Michael Jackson always demanded it; Robbie Williams delivered it in this venue earlier in the week.
JT certainly works hard to deliver a show over these two sets and everyone has a party. But it’s hard to claim greatness when a crucial aspect of the show isn’t at that level.
Timberlake plays the venue again tonight.