In the past six months, I have seen more concerts than the past ten years and most were incredible. Justin Timberlake at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ on Saturday evening was no exception. Whenever I mentioned my plans to my friends (forty-somethings like me) they would laugh. Why? It’s not like I said Justin Bieber. “Have fun with all the screaming teeny-boppers” they would tell me and it couldn’t have been further from the truth (there were more screaming middle-age boppers than teens). It was an audience of couples and singles, young and old. My 20/20 Experience!
Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids take to the stage with Pusher Love Girl. The backdrop is white with shadows of JT and the band with streaming white lights – simple, sexy. What I love about Justin Timberlake – he is a contemporary artist with ‘real’ sophistication. Pusher Love Girl is a modern day song referencing a lover being like a drug … And now I’m just a j-j-j-j-junkie for your love … My heroine, my cocaine …It won’t go away, And I can’t wait ‘til I get home to get you in my veins … but the opening is reminiscent of the Big Band Era (the band is that good and the wardrobe that slick). The two are almost a contradiction in a very good way.
While the IZOD Center is a fairly intimate venue (compared to Yankee Stadium) it is hard to see Timberlake so I focus on the orchestra and the backdrop. The first two songs are done well, somewhat subdued – a subtle introduction. The backdrop is a honeycomb pattern both art deco and futuristic and at times makes me think of a cruise ship with portholes. The back-up dancers join the stage with Rock Your Body. Don’t Hold the Wall – a sexy, seductive, tease of a song … letting go, pulling back – but the female costumes don’t reflect the sexiness of the song. Men always look great in formal ‘dinner attire’ but the woman are wearing white dinner jackets and loosely tied bow ties or ascots reminding me of something Mark Twain would wear – classic but androgynous.
The succession to Future l Sex l Love l Sound is a natural progression from dancing to foreplay, figuratively speaking but, it is not as sensual as it could be. Maybe it is purposely done – like playing hard to get. TKO and Strawberry Bubblegum are not my favorites on the second album but I enjoy the live performance. Strawberry Bubblegum is hot, smooth but I don’t necessarily get the visual accompanying it – a futuristic circus, red flashing lights … My friends from Massachusetts joined me for the concert and asked if he was this good when he performed with Jay-Z during the Legends of the Summer Tour and there really is no comparison. It would be like comparing night and day.
JT’s performance of Until the End of Time on a white baby grand piano transforms a modern day love song into something timeless – an avant-garde Frank Sinatra and then a snip of Holy Grail making me wish Jay-Z was in the house (cuz I could use a second wind) but this is Justin’s show. The number of smart phones up for the performance strikes me as funny. Cry Me a River was great, the visual (couldn’t really see JT) mirrored the dramatics of a break-up, weathering a storm of emotions … break this mother fucker down bad bitch, bad bitch … in the middle of the tornado, the band becomes a focal point, intense and the crowd goes wild … the orchestra disappears.
After a quick intermission they return with Only When I Walk Away …So what’s a man like me to say / With a bullet laying in my heart, damn, love / We go from so hot to so cold / What am I gonna do with all this damn love? / Is this fucking insane or insane love? / I guess that’s why we play … She loves me now / Only when I walk away. Crazy light show captures the intensity of the song and lyrics. Justin’s head covers the backdrop and the chorus echos and the image disappears … Only when I walk away. It’s a great song and one of my favorites off the new album. The pursuit of love can be insane.
If the first half of the show was subtle the second half was in your face. The boogie was turned up with True Blood. I don’t necessarily love the song but the groove is great. It’s fun to be moving my hips … the beat is sounding somewhat reggae-ish towards the second half of the song. The B&W backdrop is like watching a horror film, mummies and werewolves and splashing bright red blood.
Timberlake said in the most gentlemanly way, “I’m 32 now it’s my show so fuck you I want an intermission. Kids … don’t bring kids.” He certainly doesn’t have to apologize for taking an intermission. While the show is tastefully done and I could have brought my daughters, I wouldn’t because it would have a different feel. It’s about being a woman tonight not a mother.
Drink You Away … smoky background (a cigarette and a cocktail) is a fabulous song … Bitter sweet thing, could this be a dream, or just the same nightmare that keeps me awake … All these rocks / I can’t swim out of the skin I’m living in, say / Tell me baby, don’t they make a medicine for heartbreak … JT is fucking hot! Not necessarily his looks but, his confidence, his showmanship, the band, the groove … And someone lights one up. If I can’t drink you away I’ll smoke you away (not referencing myself).
Tunnel Vision isn’t one of my favorites off the new album but the live performance is pleasurable. The show is a little more sexed-up. Dancers and back-up singers are wearing sleek black dresses instead of white dinner jackets. And now the fabulous mobile catwalk takes the show from stage to center and settles at two-thirds distance at the other end of the stage. Now I can see him!! Brilliant idea! I give him credit for dancing and performing on a raised, somewhat narrow platform with ease. The crowd is roaring with delight!
Timberlake picks up the acoustic guitar and played Heartbreak Hotel as homage to Elvis. Continues with an acoustic version of Not a Bad Thing which is lovely … So don’t act like it’s a bad thing to fall in love with me, Cause you might fuck around and find your dreams come true with me, Spend all your time and money just to find out that my love was free, So don’t act like it’s a bad thing to fall in love with me, It’s not a bad thing to fall in love with me … I agree, Iman. It is one of the best songs on 2 of 2.
Many compare JT to MJ, including Iman but, I can’t say Michael Jackson has ever popped up in my mind. I understand why people make the connection and am not challenging it but I think he stands pretty firmly on his own two feet and has style all his own. Everyone has their influencers. He paid homage to Michael Jackson with a snip of Human Nature.
My favorite song of the entire night was the acoustic version of What Comes Around / Goes Around. There are times he seems young (not 32) and other times beyond his years. It was incredibly soulful, as if he crossed over from young performer to seasoned professional. He matured right before my eyes. Turn the fuck up Jersey! … Don’t want to talk about it, I’m just so sick about it, Can’t believe it’s ending this way, Just so confused about it, Feeling the blues about it … Is this the way it’s really going down? Is this how we say goodbye? … What goes around comes back around …
Take Back the Night … feels good doesn’t it? Yes, it does. Cabaret, horns, suave dancers. JT brought the sexy back in the wardrobe. Some have compared this to be similar to Michael Jackson’s Rock with You and listening to it I understand the comparison but I hear George Benson’s Give Me the Night. Either way, it’s a great song and smooth performance. The catwalk moves back to the stage and the lights go out. Timberlake did an encore of Jungle Boogie (Kool and the Gang), Murder (least fave song), Poisooooon (Bel,Biv,DeVoe), Suite and Tie (enjoyed more in July at Yankee Stadium), SexyBack and closes with a passionate performance of Mirrors.
My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance from start to finish! At $100 it was money well spent.
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