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Crónica e imágenes: «The Man Of The Woods Tour», en Salt Lake City, 12 de abril

El cantante Justin Timberlake actua en el escenario de Vivint Smart Home Arena durante su gira «The Man Of The Woods Tour» en Salt el 12 de abril, en la ciudad de Salt Lake City, UT, EE.UU.

Justin Timberlake was in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, and it was frustratingly awful … except for the parts that were brilliantly entertaining

The Salt Lake Tribune — If you think «concert» and «show» are interchangeable terms, Justin Timberlake’s performance Thursday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City aptly demonstrated the difference.

Beyond the laser lights, and the sheer, hanging projection screens, and the stylized-Z-shaped walkway that effectively added two more stages, there’s the fact that Timberlake was accompanied by two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, a percussionist, two keyboardists, a four-piece horn section, four backing singers, and six dancers.

Unless you’re at the symphony, 22 people onstage simultaneously is a bit too hectic and chaotic to qualify as a concert.

Furthermore, so many of the set’s early tracks seemed to treat lyrics as mere time-killers and space-fillers until the next choreography routine kicked in.

To be fair, none of that mattered much to the thousands of fans ready to lose their minds every time he so much as glanced in their direction.

Alas, as I suspect I am not Justin Timberlake’s target demographic, I was hoping for a bit more.

At times, he did deliver. As the set progressed toward the tunes that relegated the dancers to afterthoughts and deservedly shifted more of the focus to his captivating band and brilliantly-harmonized vocalists, that was when someone not already obsessed with him and predisposed to fawning over his every move could really recognize and appreciate his skill.

That was the most frustrating realization of the night, though — he’s clearly a talented and charismatic performer, but how he chooses to deploy it all proved maddeningly inconsistent.

There were moments I loved, like when he let his voice do the work instead of his feet. But there were also so many I loathed — bored as I was by yet another break in his singing so that he could dance instead. I’m convinced there is a skilled musician in there somewhere, but it was frequently too much effort to go looking for it, buried as it was beneath so many excessive and unnecessary layers of «showman».

Opening song • «Filthy», Justin Timberlake’s lead single from his new album, kicked off the proceedings in stilted, bizarre fashion. As the bass- and synth-heavy music blared, he belted out spoken-word-style excessive repetitions of such tepid lyrics as «If you know what’s good» and «Haters gon’ say it’s fake». Go ahead and call me a hater, then — there was not one authentic bit of music in the whole song.

Highlight(s) • On the other hand, Justin Timberlake’s performance of «Mirrors» was the total package. For one thing, it felt like the first genuine moment of him being content to sing — and when he wants to do that, the man can sing. Beyond that, the song had a beautiful, dramatic arc, thanks to tension added by the band’s slow, simmering build, and the singers’ lovely vocal augmentations. The crowd singalong at song’s end was a demonstration of pure joy, of legitimately being caught up in the moment. A late-in-the-set performance of «Say Something», featuring Timberlake on an acoustic guitar, then the vocalists joining in and lifting it to a swell, then the full band filling it out with buoyant energy, was a close runner-up.

Lowlight • The segment of the show featuring Justin Timberlake and a contingent of his cadre sitting around in a circle, campout-under-the-stars style, looking like a bad parody of a Patagonia advertisement, felt like a flimsy and forced attempt at folksiness. Timberlake’s assertion that, «Where I’m from, we like to sit around a campfire and tell our stories» was eye-rollingly cringeworthy. But then, his whole «Man of the Woods» premise is anachronistic — much as he tries to convince people he’s more simple Southern boy from Tennessee than pop star married to an impossibly beautiful, famous actress and now living in L.A., it just doesn’t work. If it’s possible to wear flannel ironically, he managed it. His whole, «Oh shucks, I’m just a normal guy like y’all» routine falls flat when you can’t help but think, «I bet that fringed jacket he’s got on cost more than my mortgage payment». Just be yourself, Justin Timberlake — just be yourself.

Crowd favorite(s) • «SexyBack» was the first performance of the night to truly flip the switch on audience reaction from «adoring and engaged» to «full-on going nuts». A bit later, a murderer’s-row string of hits that included «Señorita», «Suit & Tie», «My Love», «Cry Me a River» and «Mirrors» sent his fanbase into a prolonged and sustained frenzy.

Quotable • «Hey, y’all came to party tonight, huh? Salt Lake City came to get down tonight!» he yelled out at the conclusion of «Mirrors». «I don’t know if it’s the altitude, but I feel a little crazy right now. Anything could happen!»

  1. Filthy
  2. Midnight Summer Jam
  3. LoveStoned
  4. SexyBack
  5. Man of the Woods
  6. Higher Higher
  7. Señorita
  8. Suit & Tie
  9. My Love
  10. Cry Me a River
  11. Mirrors
  12. Drink You Away
  13. Flannel
  14. Until the End of Time
  15. Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  16. Ex-Factor (Lauryn Hill cover)
  17. Come Together (The Beatles cover)
  18. Thank God I’m a Country Boy (John Denver cover)
  19. Morning Light
  20. What Goes Around … Comes Around
  21. Say Something
  22. Montana
  23. Summer Love
  24. Rock Your Body
  25. Supplies
  26. Like I Love You
  27. Can’t Stop the Feeling!

Justin Timberlake dazzles fans in Salt Lake City

Deseret News Utah — Justin Timberlake performs during his Man of the Woods Tour on Thursday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. Dressed in plaid, Timberlake took to the stage promoting his fifth solo album, which dropped in February. The pop heart-throb, actor and former boy band icon stops next in Las Vegas, where he’ll perform Saturday and Sunday.

See the world through the eyes of award-winning photojournalists. Click through the gallery above to view the unique images our visual storytellers captured today.

Justin Timberlake brings sexy back to Salt Lake City

Herald Extra — Teenagers of years past got their heart’s wish Thursday night. Fine, at least my childhood wish was realized. Though I highly doubt I was the only one, judging by the crowd.

Pop star Justin Timberlake came around to Salt Lake City as part of his «Man of the Woods Tour», named after his newest album of the same name.

Though he opened his 27-song set with «Filthy», his performance in Salt Lake City on Thursday night was really anything but.

While the Top 10 in radio has been harder to crack these days, and hasn’t taken to Timberlake’s singles from his «Man of the Woods» album, his live performance of many of the same songs took on a much more vibrant life in front of a busy arena.

This was especially the case during the song «Man of the Woods» — have I lost you in the woods inception yet?

The genuine, contagious enthusiasm of Timberlake and band The Tennessee Kids, coupled with incredible laser work and cameras, brought the outdoors alive inside the Vivint Smart Home Arena to carry out a very literal interpretation of the album.

There’s no question to me that Timberlake remains talented, however his music has evolved. He seems to really shine as a performer. He’s not one for chit chat with the crowd when there are dozens of choreographed songs to sing and dance.

One interesting thing about Timberlake is how he surrounds himself with talented people. Earlier in his career it was as part of boy band NSYNC and for some time now Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids have been, collectively, the star.

Timberlake reserves none of it solely for himself and that was apparent. It takes a certain kind of humility and passion for music to share the stage equally with other musicians, singers and dancers that accompany you.

(Funny side story: One of the first CDs I ever owned was from NSYNC. I had requested it as a gift from my parents for Christmas. Unfortunately my dad, who had been assigned that errand, had no idea how to spell it (In-Sync? In Sink? ENSYNC?) and I, in my youth, didn’t either on my wish list. Fortunately an hour later, my dad emerged from the store, CD in hand, and on Christmas morning I was overjoyed to subject them to the beauty of that album on repeat.)

Some of my favorite parts of the tour’s set list took place when the entire group was situated around a live campfire on the stage. While maybe cliche, it’s a situation many of us have been in on some summer night under the stars with friends or family. And like any other group, the band went around the fire splitting solo time covering songs like Fleetwood Mac’s «Dreams», The Beatles’ «Come Together» and John Denver’s «Thank God I’m a Country Boy».

Timberlake would not be the same without The Tennessee Kids. There’s something just so impactful and rare these days about a band that large with multiple drummers and a lot of beautiful brass.

You can’t stop the feeling flowing through your body. Their variety of music demands to be swayed, jumped and clapped to.

Two Deseret News reporters debate Justin Timberlake’s Utah show

Deseret News — On Thursday night, Justin Timberlake brought his «Man of the Woods» tour to Utah. Mistakenly, the Deseret News’ Arts & Entertainment editor gave permission to both Deseret News reporters Court Mann and Herb Scribner to review the Vivint Arena show. Reaching an impasse, the two found a solution. That solution is the debate that follows.

What was good, and what was not good, from Timberlake’s concert? Read on.

Good or not good: The Shadowboxers

Court Mann: Man, this is a tough one. The Shadowboxers (the show’s opening act ) had some really great moments — cool hooks, good vocals, etc. — but collectively, it left me scratching my head. At some moments they seemed like One Direction, other moments like an R&B-funk-pop band, other moments a rap group, sometimes a dance troupe. Like, what are these kids doing, exactly? My verdict: kind of not good, but maybe good in a few years when they figure things out?

Herb Scribner: I don’t even know what to say about this band. I mostly agree with you, Court. This band literally played a song called «Shadowboxer». Imagine if NSYNC played a song called «In Sink». Oh boy. I’ll give them credit for attempting to hype up the crowd and perform across the entire stage. But let’s be real: The show’s hype man who DJ’d earlier did a better job.

But I’m with you on how talented this band could be in a few years. This tour will do wonders for them with Justin Timberlake teaching them how to command a stage and own the night. Like I said to you during the show, I think this band could be years ahead of its time. Or … not.

Good or not good: The whole «Man of the Woods» aesthetic

Herb: Aside from the opening two numbers — «Filthy» and «Midnight Summer Jam» — his «Man of the Woods» theme didn’t really jibe with the rest of the show. Timberlake asked us to dance, hop, clap, bounce and sing, all of which don’t mesh with the «Man of the Woods» aesthetics (all those prop trees, a fake campfire, images of the woods on the dropdown screens). It just doesn’t make sense. Why would I be dancing in the woods?

However, I did gain a slight appreciation for the new album, or at least the songs themselves. «Say Something» is a hit, «Man of the Woods» should be blaring through your radio when you’re cruising down I-15 on a summer night and «Supplies» is as close to rapper Justin Timberlake that we’ll get. I’m inspired to listen to his album again. «Montana» was just a huge mood killer, though. So, I’m going to say «not really good» for this one.

Court: Wait a second, Herb — you’ve never danced in the woods? Please watch the dancing in the woods scene from «Hot Rod». (I’m now imagining a world where Justin Timberlake watched this scene and was inspired to make «Man of the Woods».)

I would have forgiven the «Man of the Woods» aesthetic if the songs were strong. Good music hides a multitude of sins, but those new songs just don’t measure up. I found it quite not good.

Herb: That’s all fair. Also, thanks for showing me the «Hot Rod» scene. The only redeeming quality of the campfire display was when Justin Timberlake let his backup singers sing some classic songs from other artists, including a personal favorite, «Ex-Factor», by Lauryn Hill.

Good or not good: His biggest hits

Court: Good. Even great at certain moments. For me, the show’s high point was midway through, when he did «My Love» and «Cry Me A River» back-to-back. Those might be his two best songs, and they threw a killer guitar solo into each one. I. Was. Hyped.

Herb: This gets a good from me, too. «Cry Me a River» and «Mirrors» back-to-back just crushed me. I was thinking about my sixth-grade crush AND my college crush all in the space of five minutes. Wild how Justin Timberlake can bring us back with some classics. And he played my favorite all-time Timberlake song, «Summer Love». Loved it.

Good or not good: «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!»

Court: (Did you know this song’s official title is written all in caps, with an exclamation point at the end?) I might anger some folks here: NOT GOOD. Listen, I love Justin — truly. Been riding with him ever since «Cry Me A River». But «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!» is supremely weak. If it were sung by a lesser man — like, oh, say, an Adam Levine or an Ed Sheeran — it’d be fine. It’s on their level.

I will concede, though, that «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!» (gosh, I hate typing that out in caps) was written for a movie based on a popular children’s doll. The source material here isn’t great. That it’s now his de facto closing song makes me sad. Aim higher, Justin.

Herb: Wow. You hate «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!» Yeesh.

Look, «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!» is such a jam. No question. It was the song of summer 2016. I’m all-in on the song.

But I’m a little worried about what it means for Justin’s legacy. That’s why I’m going to agree and say «not good» (with a slightly-sad face emoji). Here’s why: Justin just released what could be his final album, and the last song on the tour for that album is … a hit from 2016 that was featured on the «Trolls» soundtrack?

The final song in a set list is the artist’s most iconic, legendary, popular and, oftentimes, best song. It’s the one everyone will remember you for — forever. So, despite all the hits Justin Timberlake has dropped over the years, «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!» is his bow-out song? A song that will dominate wedding playlists forever that DIDN’T EVEN APPEAR ON ANY OF HIS ALBUMS? Sort of a sad finale.

Here’s another question worth pondering: If not «CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!» then what?

Court: How about «I’m Lovin’ It», his song that got turned into a McDonald’s jingle? Anyone? Anyone? I’m here for the deep cuts, people.

Good or not good: The songs he didn’t play

Herb: Timberlake’s discography is so deep, but there are plenty of songs he didn’t sing. Namely, all his NSYNC stuff. There’s so much material there he could have brought out. I was hoping for some throwbacks that made him famous before his solo career. Give me a «Bye Bye Bye», «It’s Gonna Be Me» or a «Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays» any day. Those songs are straight fire. Drop some of the «Man of the Woods» songs and slap me with some slick boy band beats, Justin Timberlake!

Overall, I’m going to give him a not good on this. I can’t let Justin Timberlake slide for forgetting his roots.

Court: Great points, Herb. I was never an NSYNC fan (except for the song «Girlfriend». All hail «Girlfriend»). But «Bye Bye Bye» would’ve blown the roof off the place. Maybe that should’ve been his closing song? I was hoping he’d throw in either «Let the Groove Get In» or «Take Back the Night», two super-underrated songs from «The 20/20 Experience». Overall, a strong set list with some great renditions of his classics, so I’ll say it was good.

Herb: He also left off «Not a Bad Thing» from «20/20» and that is certainly a bad thing.

Best moment/worst moment

Court: I mentioned this earlier, but «Cry Me A River» was my fave. That song still sounds so good, more than 15 years after it was released. And the concert version’s arrangement really showed how incredible Justin Timberlake’s backing band is. The worst moment, I think, was after they performed «Drink You Away» (a country music crossover that probably spurred this whole «Man of the Woods» shtick) and went into his dud of a new song «Flannel». (Yes, he actually named one of his songs «Flannel». You played yourself, Justin.) «Drink You Away» is good. «Flannel» is not.

Herb: My favorite moment was «Cry Me a River» into «Mirrors». Those two songs linked together was awesome. I just loved the lighting display, the way the sounds meshed together, and just the way Justin Timberlake had the entire room singing with him for five minutes straight. Great moment.

I’m going to go with «Montana» as my worst moment (close second: The Shadowboxers). Just can’t deal with that song. It stinks, too, because he had a hot streak going with «What Goes Around … Comes Around» and «Say Something». «Summer Love» would have been a great follow-up if «Montana» didn’t get in the way.

Court: Well, Herb, I think that covers it. Let’s get to our last «good or not good» of the evening. Drumroll please …

Good or not good: The whole concert

Herb: I’m going with good, because I had a fun time and it brought me back to my youth. I wouldn’t pass up the tickets if they came around again. Still, I’m giving this just a «good». Not great. Not amazing. Not awesome. Good. It was fine. I will give Justin Timberlake credit — he won me back after a horrible Super Bowl performance earlier this year. Anyway, good stuff, Justin Timberlake. See you next time you’re in Salt Lake City.

Court: I’m in the «good» camp here. The first half of his set was just astoundingly strong. When they did that flannel costume change, though, they lost momentum and never quite regained it. But I’ll salute Mr. Timberlake. The man knows how to command a crowd, how to enlist a killer group of backing musicians and has great taste in Air Jordans. Oh, and he’s very good at singing.

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