It’s safe to say that Justin Timberlake has now risen to the heights of genuine superstar thanks to over a decade of massive hits, starring roles in movies and a celebrity marriage. The 33 year old has come a long way since his days in the Mickey Mouse Club and as a member of cheesy boy band ‘N Sync, and tonight at Birmingham’s sold out LG Arena, JT raises the bar when it comes to putting on a pop show.
Just after 8:30, following a warm-up set by his tour DJ, Freestyle Steve, Justin appears at the back of the stage in near-silhouette as the crowd, which is predictably primarily female, let out a collective scream several octaves higher than you’d hear at most concerts. He starts off relatively subdued, with a classy Pusher Love Girl, bringing out his inner Sinatra in his stylish white jacket, black waistcoat and bow tie. A snippet of Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want) is up next before the party really starts with a funked-up Rock Your Body.
As you’d expect, the dance moves are slick and precise and Justin’s voice is in fine form, but major credit has to go to his band, The Tennessee Kids. The collective of horn players, percussionists, guitarists and surely one of the best drummers on the planet are spectacular throughout the show, even accompanying JT on his dance routines occasionally without missing a beat.
Like I Love You somehow manages to lose some of the swagger of the original but Cry Me A River is every inch the pop masterpiece, accompanied by a feast of impressive visuals on the frankly gigantic backdrop. It has to be said that I’ve never seen such an impressive stage show in this venue. The huge screen stretches from one side of the arena to the other (and that’s not even the full version due to the LG Arena’s relatively low roof) and projects animation and video footage from the stage as well as being home to (I’m told) the biggest lazer show ever taken on any tour. Platforms rise up from beneath the stage to reveal musicians, dancers and the main man himself and everything is synched perfectly, which should keep Justin, who admits to being OCD, more than happy.
A ten minute interval and a suit change for Timberlake precedes Only When I Walk Away and Drink You Away as Justin straps on an acoustic guitar. He jokes with the crowd that if they take one thing away from tonight’s show it should be that “the American pronounced Birmingham correctly”. He wishes an audience member Happy Birthday and gives a cheeky “I love you too sweetheart” in response to another. Let’s hope Jessica Biel, who’s in the arena tonight, doesn’t mind!
Señorita gets a huge roar from the crowd and Let The Groove Get In sees some of the best synchronised dancing of the night. It’s then that the most spectacular moment of the show occurs. The front section of the stage dismantles, raises up and begins to move across the crowd, complete with Justin and his backing singers. It’s a truly impressive feat of engineering and means those fans seated further away from the main stage get to see JT up close and personal for a few songs. From a small stage towards the back of the arena he then straps on his guitar again and pays homage to some of his heroes, with a cover of Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature.
The final section of the show brings the party vibes to the fore as Take Back The Night segues into a blisteringly funky cover of Kool & The Gang’s Jungle Boogie. Bell Biv DeVoe’s Poison works really well and, after two hours of music, the triple whammy of Suit & Tie, SexyBack and, finally, Mirrors ensure that nobody leaves without feeling thoroughly entertained.
Tickets for tonight’s show were not cheap. Well over £100 for some seats. But, with a show like the one we witnessed tonight, that ticket price is almost justified (pun intended). JT is this generation’s ultimate pop star. His music may not be for everyone but nobody can deny his many talents and, after tonight, his ability to throw one hell of a party.
Justin returns to the Midlands this August to headline the V Festival.
Pusher Love Girl
Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)
Rock Your Body
Like I Love You
Until the End of Time
(JAY Z cover)
Cry Me a River
Only When I Walk Away
Drink You Away
Let the Groove Get In
(Elvis Presley cover)
Not a Bad Thing
(Michael Jackson cover)
What Goes Around… Comes Around
Take Back the Night
(Kool & The Gang cover)
(Bell Biv DeVoe cover)
Suit & Tie
Review and iPhone photos – Steve Gerrard