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Crónica e imágenes: «The Man Of The Woods Tour», en Memphis, 30 de mayo

El cantante Justin Timberlake actua en el escenario de FedEx Forum durante su gira «The Man Of The Woods Tour» el 30 de mayo, en la ciudad de Memphis, TN, EE.UU.

Justin Timberlake thrills hometown fans with ‘Man of the Woods’ tour stop in Memphis

Commercial Appeal — Midway through his concert at Memphis’ FedExForum on Wednesday, Justin Timberlake raised a shot glass and offered a toast.

«To the realest, grittiest, grindin’ist city in the world», he said. «Dorothy had it right — ain’t no place like home!»

The Memphis-born, Millington-raised pop polymath made his way back to the Beale Street arena for another soldout show. Touring in support of his «Man of the Woods» LP, the concert marked the third time Timberlake has packed FedExForum in the last decade. While his previous concerts in 2007 and 2013 seemed like coronations for the biggest star the city has produced since Elvis Presley, this latest appearance felt like a true homecoming.

Fittingly, Timberlake came on stage wearing an Elvis T-shirt and playing the role of local boy done good. «901 — what’s up?» he asked. «Did you come to show out tonight?»

Fronting his big band, The Tennessee Kids, Timberlake was a whir of movement from the moment he hit the stage. Historically, Timberlake’s concerts have been visual spectacles that have benefited from his child entertainer instincts and deep pockets. But the production on his current tour outstripped anything he’d previously presented.

The main stage was a futurist spectacle of sleek angles and high-tech lights, with a black catwalk winding through the length of the arena, with an additional center stage, giving the show the intimate feel of a concert in the round. The design was studded with fake trees and other rustic touches — a nod to the «Man of the Woods» theme — as well as a shifting array of projection screens, resulting in a fluid and hyperkinetic feel.

Some reviewers have complained about the pacing and momentum of Timberlake’s show, noting the sets have been hampered by the fact that he’s supporting an album that’s generally regarded as the weakest in his catalog. Still, Timberlake seemed to do just fine balancing a big chunk of new material and a selection of familiar hits over the course of the 27-song set.

After opening with somewhat shapeless versions of «Filthy» and «Midnight Summer Jam», off his latest, things began to take flight with a rendition of his signature «SexyBack». Timberlake then stepped behind an electric piano for a stab at «Señorita», later moved on to an elegant mic dance routine on «Suit & Tie», and brought a grand dramatic sweep to his performance of «Cry Me a River».

While the songs drove the show, it was the moments in between the music that almost felt more significant, with Timberlake pausing to soak up the love or throwing up «M-Town» signs, as the crowd serenaded him with chants of «Justin Timberlake! Justin Timberlake! Justin Timberlake!»

By the time he got to the end of «Mirror», Timberlake was in the heart of the arena, on his knees, pounding the floor, and stretching his arms out, as if to gather all the love being heaped upon him.

«I’m speechless — I don’t know what to say. I see so many friendly faces in the crowd.

«Family, friends and some of you bastards that picked on me at Jeter», Timberlake chided, referring his elementary school in Millington. «I’m just playing — I love you too. Seriously — can I tell you what a pleasure it is to be back in the town that raised this man?»

After Timberlake and the band downed their celebratory shots and ambled through a version «Drink You Away», they set up in a circle for an acoustic hootenanny style mini-set, replete with faux campfire. Timberlake let his back-up singers step up on covers of Fleetwood Mac and Lauryn Hill. A silly, but enjoyable version of John Denver’s «Thank God I’m a Country Boy» followed, before everyone returned to their spots for a full band finale.

The closing portion of the show — highlighted by an energetic workup of «Rock Your Body» and an exultant finale of «Can’t Stop the Feeling» — found Timberlake further confirming his status as a fairly peerless contemporary pop performer.

While Timberlake has generally put several years between his local appearances, his next return will be a quick one. As part of the wrap-up for his current world tour, he’ll be back for another local love fest, with a concert date at FedExForum in January.

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