Justin Timberlake Remains Awesome at the Oracle
SF Weekly — To most people my age, gender, and level of self-esteem, Justin Timberlake is, and always will be, the embodiment of 21st century male perfection — that gold standard that you dare not compare yourself to, and try to ignore as often as possible. This is the guy who brought SexyBack, who seems to grace the cover of GQ every other month, who made the transition to acting seem like a cakewalk, who managed to escape the ball and chain of a ’90s boy band, one that would probably be doing sympathy shows right now if he hadn’t forced a breakup. He’s just so cool.
Which was basically the theme of his show last night at the Oracle Arena. I’m Justin Timberlake. I am. So. Goddam. Cool!
Don’t think I’m complaining. I’m as cynical as they come, but even I have to admit: Timberlake’s show was the best arena concert I’ve seen in a while, and, judging by the insanely loud response from the crowd, I doubt anyone left unsatisfied.
The setlist seemed designed to give fans the biggest bang for their buck. The audience was hit with the triple punch of “Pusher Love Girl”, “Rock Your Body”, and “FutureSex/LoveSound” right out of the gate, and was never able to really recover from the onslaught of big hits (“Cry Me a River”, “What Goes Around…Comes Around”,) and equally catchy deeper cuts (why was “Drink You Away” not released as single from the second 20/20 Experience? Because it has guitar?) We were putty in the man’s hands.
JT even broke out a few covers, including a decent version of “Heartbreak Hotel” (like Elvis, Timberlake hails from Memphis) and a somewhat less-successful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”. Say what you will about Timberlake, but it takes balls to copy Elvis and MJ, to say nothing of pairing them up together. Towards the end, a brief snippet of “Jungle Boogie” popped up during “Murder”, but it seemed to fly over most of the crowd’s heads. The finale of “SexyBack” and “Mirrors” was predictably satisfying, although the idea of projecting images of actual audience members (like a mirror, you know?) should have been thought out a bit more (for every excited twentysomething there was also a mug of some barely-interested dad).
A pop concert always lends itself to certain excesses, and Timberlake’s was no exception. The old tricks were respectfully replicated: Timberlake first appeared on stage by coming up through the floor, had topped off his considerable (and very talented) backing band, The Tennessee Kids, with a pair of drummers and a tuba player, and always seemed to have lasers going off at the beat drop. He also pulled off some Astaire-ian dance moves with the mic stand, and got everyone to pullout their phones for an obligatory crowd-sourced light show.
I doubt anyone in the Oracle predicted a levitating stage, which coasted over the floor seats during “Let The Groove Get In”. It was a great effect, and really helped sustained the excitement as the concert wound down.
The cynic in me wants to point out how, by levitating to the other side of the arena, Timberlake was able to spend 10 minutes shaking hands and schmoozing with a bunch of drunk people in the VIP lounge sections, but I hardly noticed, mainly because, during the stage’s journey over the crowd, JT stood on the end of the stage platform and sang directly to my section. From nine feet away, I could see the stubble on his chiseled chin, that perfectly gelled hair, those dreamy, laughing eyes clearly relishing life on the top.
He’s the worst. Absolutely. But, fuck, he’s so cool.
Pre-Show DJ: A decent set, considering how unfocused a pre-show audience can be, but a few questions, my good man. Why bother playing Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You” if you’re gonna play the clean version? It’s all curse words. Wouldn’t it be better to just not play it at all? Also, you tried to pep up the crowd by waving around some VIP passes, offering them to the loudest fans. Were those real? Because some little girl a few rows behind me started crying when you got off the stage and no one got any.
The Issue of Race: I’m not sure if this relevant, but I only saw five black people at this concert, and one of them was the pre-show DJ.
History Lesson: A very pleasant older couple sitting behind me told me about seeing Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana at the Oracle long ago. They left a half hour into the show.
Number of Oakland Shoutouts: Waaay more than necessary (approximately 52)
Number of “San Fran”s: Waaay more than necessary (he said it once).
Better than: Watching Yogi Bear, Bad Teacher, or In Time
Saturday, November 22, 2014