Last night I was lucky enough to see Justin Timberlake. I say lucky, because it was a show I had resigned myself to not seeing. Despite how rarely I get to live events anymore (I'm not even sure what the last concert in a club I saw was), this was a concert I really wanted to see, but the tickets were cost-prohibitive. $75 and up for the price of two hours entertainment is not value for the money as far as I'm concerned.
Much to my surprise, Joe Nozemack at Oni Press and our associate Eric Gitter from Closed On Mondays worked some connections and got four seats for Joe, myself, DJ Gregarious, and his significant other. Four really, really good seats. To the side of the stage, row F in the first section off the floor. Really good.
My Justin Timberlake love is no secret. I not only have a total dude crush on him, but let's be honest, I kind of wouldn't mind being him. The kid is cool, no doubt about it. He's also supremely talented. Live is the best way to see both of those traits connect.
Regardless of what you think about the music, J.T. is a consummate showman. He sings, he dances, he interacts with the crowd. Sometimes he picks up a guitar, sometimes he sits at a piano and pounds on the keys. Regardless of what he is doing, he is in command of his stage.
And what a stage it was! Designed for an in-the-round experience, the physical stage is symmetrically put together so that both the front and the back and the left and the right have the exact same outcroppings, partitions, etc. With a wide drag splitting it down the middle, Justin and his dancers could move to any one side with precision planning. If he was singing to one end of the audience, an unobtrusive curtain-like screen would lower on the other end to show what was going on across the way. The main drag also split the band in half, so that both sides had musicians, and they were on risers that went up and down depending on the set-up. There were also trap doors all over the place, meaning dancers could emerge and disappear, keeping the show constantly moving.
Justin had about ten dancers, split evenly between male and female. I often found myself distracted by the female dancers, less for any lascivious reasons than for out-and-out fascination by what kind of shape their bodies were in. The physical definition, the muscles--they weren't silicone and spackle, but honest to goodness athletes. If strippers looked like that, I'd go to peeler bars regularly.
(The males were dressed in suits similar to their boss' outfits, so no skin. Sorry, ladies.)
The band was also large, with nearly two of everything, a kind of Noah's Ark of pop music. Two drummers, two keyboard players, two guitarists. Only the bass player seemed on his own (unless I mistook a bass for a guitar, and there was one guitarist). Excellent musicians, all of them, and the extended arrangements of the FutureSex/LoveSounds album gave them plenty of room to show off. Unfortunately, most likely due to his involvement at the MTV awards this weekend, we didn't have Timbaland like most of the other tour stops. Justin made up for it, however, by covering Timbo's parts himself, or in cases like "Cry Me a River," getting the audience to fill-in. Once or twice he did resort to canned recordings of the rapper/producer, but he mostly avoided that kind of thing. There was no Clipse portion of "Like I Love You" or T.I. on "My Love;" though, I could have done without the taped choir on "Losing My Way." His four back-up singers could have handled it fine, methinks.
The set list was incredible, covering about 90% of FutureSex, as well as drawing in quite a bit from Justified and even an acoustic version of *NSync's "Gone." I liked that he wasn't afraid to tweak the arrangements, working in full with his band rather than sticking to the album formula. New intros on "My Love," "Rock Your Body," and "What Goes Around..." for instance. He also constructed the set well, working in two sections (oh, that symmetry), with a short intermission. The culmination of the show was "Cry Me a River," followed by the full suite of "Lovestoned/I Think She Knows" (my favorite off the album), and then this monster, keyboard and guitar pounding jam that took him into the "Sexyback" victory lap. Once the crowd keyed in to what the tune was, it was no less than an explosion. An arena of people losing their minds. Justin didn't even have to cue us to sing "Go ahead be gone with it," thousands of mouths were already forming the words.
And again, it was really Justin's show. The guy doesn't have a moment where he's not giving it everything he has, and if he isn't having the best time in the world, he deserves some kind of award for faking it to look like he does. Watching him, it's clear he loves to play music and to dance, and he's got little competition that can touch him in either.
Thanks again to Joe and Eric! And for those hating on me for getting to go when they didn't, I must point out that you get your due: the little girls in the audience gave me germs or something, and I have a sore throat and aches and pains. Blech!
(Photos not from last night but found online. Thanks to those who I yanked them from.)
Current Soundtrack: Justin & Christina split EP; Justified
Current Mood: crappy
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All text (c) 2007 Jamie S. Rich