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Justin’s star status is justified
Former boy-band member brings the house down with his sly, sexy R&B performance
Sun Aug 26 2007
By Jill Wilson
Attendance: 16,000 (sold out)
**** out of five
It’s got to be said: the hype is justified.
From the first robotic funk moments of FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake showed why he’s outstripped his prefab boy-band roots to become a genuine superstar.
Emerging from behind giant semi-circular scrims to truly deafening screams, the slight 26-year-old commanded attention, sliding gracefully across the huge stage — which was crawling with provocatively clad female dancers and suit-wearing male hoofers — and proved that he’s not just a radio sensation, but that he can pull off his sly, sexy R&B live.
Helped out by a seven-piece band and four backup singers, the fleet-footed former ‘NSYNC member wearing a black suit, white shirt and white runners, skipped, slid, twirled, leapt and paused for the occasional crotch grap, his falsetto never sounding winded.
He paused after a giddy rendition of My Love to banter with the audience and do a shot.
“That’s something I’ve noticed about Canadians,” he said, raising his hand in the universal “drinking” motion and then asked the crowd to join him in a toast before launching into Senorita from his debut solo album, Justified.
The in-the-round setup featured a circular stage with two catwalks extending right out into the seats, and two neon-lit triangular stage extensions, around which sit the enclosed red-carpeted VIP lounges with bar stools lining the lip of the stage.
Timberlake made the most of the setup, strutting the stage with his band and playing keytar during the Sexy Ladies, running out to shake fans’ hands, then sitting down at the piano for the ballad Until the End of Time.
With a show this choreographed, there’s clearly not a spontaneous moment in the night, but Timberlake imbues every movement with a sense of impish joy that makes it seems as fresh as if he were doing for the first time. After an epic What Goes Around… Comes Around, he playfully took his life in his hand, prowling the narrow lip of the stage as fans grasped his pants legs while he did a version of Timbaland’s Bounce — midway through, the producer-rapper joined him onstage for Chop Me Up.
Timbaland then took over with a 15-minute DJ set as Timberlake took an intermission. He led the crowd in a singalong and call-and-response session that included snippets of Michael Jackson, Kelly Clarkson, as well as artists who have benefited from his magic touch, such as Nelly Furtado and Missy Elliott, over his trademark booming beats. The biggest cheers were reserved for Give It To Me, the track featuring Timberlake and Furtado from his new Timbaland Presents Shock Value album.
At press time, if the set list held true to prior shows, Timberlake still had a good 10 songs ahead of him, including the Britney Spears kiss-off Cry Me a River and the tune that spawned a catchphrase, SexyBack.
Timberlake’s boy-band days are long behind him and his musical appeal is across the board, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the crowd at the arena, which was overwhelmingly female, many of them alarmingly young women teetering along in alarmingly high heels. The bathroom and beer lines featured vast expanses of exposed cleavage and the mix of perfumes filling the air was dizzying.
The merchandise cleverly catered to the XX set, too: hot pants with SexyBack stamped on the derriere were $50, while the boy-short underwear reading Love Stoned are a relative steal at $25. Gentlemen got their chance to be fleeced, though — a zippered warmup jacket would set you back $100.
Maryland band Good Charlotte played a 40-minute opening set of what passes for pop-punk these days, which is to say inoffensive, catchy rock mostly culled from their most recent album, Good Morning Revival. Tattooed and guylinered lead singer Joel Madden (Nicole Richie’s main squeeze) coaxed screams out the audience by flattering Winnipeg’s beautiful women and offering the band’s services as a replacement hockey team for the Jets. Keep Your Hands Off My Girl, March On and I Just Want to Live had good energy, but the quintet seemed dwarfed by the huge stage.