It’s safe to say; the hype entirely lives up to the experience when you attend a Justin Timberlake concert. And I certainly won’t leave out the Tennessee Kids, talk about a group of top-shelf performers. The fascinating aspect about the Tennessee Kids is they are actually “Justin Timberlake’s band and official fan club.” Now that one takes me for a whirlwind. Timberlake quotes the group as “a kickass group of musicians. We’ve played together now for so long that we really have a thing. It’s so much more than a band name.” This statement is entirely justified. Could you imagine being a part of your favorite artist’s fan club and performing live on stage with him/her? It’s hard to, but the reality is certainly here for the Tennessee Kids.
Knowing Timberlake from his roots in the Mickey Mouse Club to NSYNC, the days when boy bands (Backstreet Boys, LFO, O-Town, 98°) were played all over the radio, through today, is marked by a spectacular journey. That journey became a live experience for me Tuesday, March 27th at the United Center. Party buses galore pulled over to the confines of limitations to access the building. People pouring from every direction with smiling faces, laughing, wearing leather, denim, sports coats – all decked out to see the newly coined, Man of the Woods.
I’ve never witnessed such an impressive, elaborate stage structure that permeates throughout a venue with props, special lighting, and a dual-sided center bar that surrounded the zig-zagging stage walkway. The bartenders were plenty busy with people dashing their cards in the air, ready for another cocktail at their Tuesday evening special event. Timberlake’s fan base comes from all ages, a vast spectrum of females and males (after all, I did go to this show alone). Anticipation was the smell in the air. Chicago was the 5th stop on the Man of the Woods Tour, for two nights at the United Center.
Without further undue, here we go: the lights dimmed, opening chords began to play and a very bright light shined from the center of the stage at the far end from where I sat. The crowd screamed of high pitch notes, incredibly excited for the next two hours of what would become one of the most memorable performances they’d witness. A body emerged from the walls and into the glimmer of the light, the crowd knew who this last individual to arrive at the stage was, he came – but not in a suit and tie, rather in a denim coat, black pants, and red kicks. Sexy was officially back in Chicago.
Over the course of the evening, we heard a great deal of material from the new Man of the Woods album, and the hoped-for classic hits from FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justified, and The 20/20 Experience. In addition to all of his original content, covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” The Beatles’ “Come Together” and John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” were also played. At that point in the show, the singers, dancers, and JT gathered around a campfire singing these different songs featuring a different lead singer each time. I managed to receive a text at this point in the show, from a girl who claimed she could eat more tacos than me, since it was Taco Tuesday. What audacity to make such a bold claim? Needless to say, I was somewhat distracted during this segment of the show, defending my ability to eat. What I didn’t miss was the highest quality of talent – the singing, melodies and modern taken on old classics. This was a unique aspect of the show, which many artists won’t do unless a recent musician passes away. It added to the story of the evening.
We won’t downplay Timberlake’s dance segments either. In particular he had a special segment with a red microphone stand, hundreds of lasers and a spinning circle stage. You’ll hear of comparisons of Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson amongst different fans. There’s really no comparison, it’s about inspiration. Michael Jackson was a clear inspiration to what Justin Timberlake performs today.
What I haven’t done yet is talk about favorite moments of this show, lucky for you, that’s what we’re about to dive head-first into. The choreography was unlike anything I’ve seen before – better than the Super Bowl Halftime Show three-times over. Timberlake used a beat pad to intro “My Love” while throwing in pieces of samples from “In Paris” by Jay-Z featuring Kanye West. That build-up and lead in to “My Love” was probably one of the best parts of the show itself. Although I sat in the 300 level seats, there were transparent screens that caught different glimpses of Timberlake throughout his performance as he moved in every direction – every person could see what was happening with the band, JT, and the audience as they were projected throughout the “wilderness” landscaped stage. If you haven’t listened to the Man of the Woods album, you should. As he tributes the album to “going back to his roots,” it shows a level of sophistication that the 37-year old has come to appreciate over his career.
Concluding the evening, the crowd couldn’t stop their feelings – those of joy, passion, delight and most importantly gratitude. We’re pretty damn lucky to have a performer like Justin Timberlake in our lifetime, whether, in a suit and tie or flannel and a full beard, you’re bound for an unforgettable experience.