REVIEW: Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience

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Previously, I’ve never been a huge Justin Timberlake fan. Sure, I enjoyed the music of NSYNC but in those heady days of boy-band madness my attention was devoted squarely between Britney Spears and Pokemon. Yes, I grinded to ‘Sexyback’ like all the other girls at the year 9 social but on my own time, I was far too busy going through my emo phase to give that curly-haired heartthrob the time of day. Throughout my youth, Justin Timberlake has been a fairly consistent part of my musical landscape, someone whose presence I’d always taken for granted and never devoted any huge amount of scrutiny.

So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I went to see ‘The 20/20 Experience’ at Perth Arena. JT had managed to fill the stadium with more than 12,000 eager fans, who were all slowly losing their minds with anticipation. The dude knows how to make an entrance. A ten-second countdown heralded Timberlake’s arrival to the stage. He then teased the audience with projections of his silhouette hitting the back of the stage alongside the shadows of his bandmates, before a hidden platform slowly raised him to the stage to rapturous applause.

From the get-go, Timberlake is every part the professional. His voice, wardrobe, dance moves and hair are all slicker than a newborn dolphin. He moved through a series of R & B hits featuring some newer material, like his recent Grammy winner  ‘Pusher Love Girl’ and his 2003 dance-floor magnet ‘Rock Your Body’. JT never let the energy slip, moving through each number with all the ease of someone who has spent most of his adult life getting stadiums full of people to fall in love with him. His back-up dancers matched his energy and kept the crowd engaged with impeccably rehearsed choreography. Timberlake didn’t shy away from his earlier work, much to the crowd’s excitement, ending the first half with a climactic rendition of his famed break-up song, ‘Cry Me a River’.

During the second half, Timberlake was able to slow down a little and show his musical chops. He also got the lights up for what he said was his favourite part of the show, because he could “have a good look at each and every one of you”. He discovered it was the 18th birthday of a girl called Emily-Rose, so he prompted the stadium to join him in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, bringing her to joyful tears. “Don’t cry, you’re 18! Do some shots, get someone to drive you home and then at 3am you cry,” he said. He then smoothly segued into his song ‘Drink You Away’, an ode to alcohol a little more bluesy than his other songs.

During his song ‘Let the Groove In’, the stage arose, transporting Timberlake and his back-up singers across the stadium, making sure to give every corner of the room some love. It’s a mean feat to get a seated Perth crowd dancing, but the singer proved himself willing and able. At the VIP bar, Timberlake downed a shot of tequila and performed an acoustic rendition of his 2006 hit ‘What Goes Around’ alongside Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’.

Although he’s earned a solid catalogue of his own popular songs, Timberlake also has excellent taste when it comes to covers, paying homage to Michael Jackson and Elvis. And then he busted out ‘Jungle Boogie’ by Kool and the Gang followed by Bell Biv de Voe’s ‘Poison’. Was that the sound of my heart getting stolen?! (Yes. Yes it was). These two numbers gave his band, the Tennessee Kids a chance to flex their considerable muscles, proving their abilities both technically and giving their fair share of showmanship. The ensemble gave a huge finale with ‘Suit and Tie’, leaving the audience begging for more. Ever the generous performer, Timberlake returned to perform crowd-favourite ‘Sexyback’ and ‘Mirrors’ as an encore.

Following the ’20/20′ experience, my feelings regarding Justin Timberlake have gone from a mild fondness to a deep, profound, borderline spiritual appreciation. Though my fourteen year old self may shame me for going so ‘mainstream’, I lam now a fan, and I’m not even sorry.

Sophie Joske


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