The President of Pop, Justin Timberlake, descended on London this April Fools’ Day, and had a whole host of tricks up his sleeve.
Preceded by modern club classics from DJ Freestyle Steve, and a hoax cancellation from his manager, it felt like JT would never grace the stage. But good things come to those who wait; as a projection of his 20/20 Experience image came across the stage with little videos about life’s experiences, and a countdown until his appearance began, the atmosphere in the O2 was electric.
Soon, we were plunged into darkness, as the silhouettes of Timberlake and his orchestra appeared, and the opening chords of ‘Pusher Love Girl’ sounded before his acapella introduction to the night. The performance was flawless. Timberlake carried on for two hours solidly, recounting old hits and new, with only a ten minute interval; which he claimed was a “beer break” intended for his audience, whilst making jokes about his age.
Throughout the evening, JT provided mash-ups of old songs and new, using the newer introductions to launch into classic hits like ‘Rock Your Body’ and ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’. This could have been hit or miss, but Timberlake had crafted the setlist so that nothing less than perfection was provided for his audience.
Unlike most concerts, there was not a single song which fell flat throughout The 20/20 Experience show. Even older tracks like ‘Summer Love’ and ‘Until the End of Time’ were well-received – although the latter did have the audience swooning at his fantastic piano skills.
JT took the time to remind us of his Tennessee roots, performing Elvis’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ after the interval, and ‘Drink You Away’ with his Tennessee Kids (also doing shots with the audience). The Tennessee Kids deserve a special mention for the fantastic energy provided throughout the concert and providing the perfect backing for the superstar. Timberlake also gave us an insight into his musical influences, mixing Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ with ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’, and performing Bell Biv Devoe’s ‘Poison’ with some of his Tennessee Kids after ‘Murder’.
The surprise of the night came from ‘Let the Groove Get In’. A song which tends to drag when you listen to it, JT kept it energetic, and blew the audience away with a stage which moved across the O2, bringing him closer to every audience member in turn. Even a momentary stumble was passed off as a dance move and made to seem even cooler.
Speaking of dance moves, JT proved that he still had the boyband cool of his *NSYNC days, performing his routines with ease and elegance. Classic routines like ‘Rock Your Body’ and ‘Like I Love You’ took us back to the Justified days, whilst ‘TKO’ showed us just how far he’s come.
Rounding off with ‘SexyBack’, ‘Suit and Tie’, and ‘Mirrors’ without Jay-Z or any other form of help in sight, JT proved why he’s the best showman that our generation are likely to experience. With his charisma, ridiculous talent, and humble thanks for his audience, it’s easy to see why he’s going to be successful for many years to come.
If you get the chance to see him, do. You’ll be in for the treat of a lifetime.
Justin Timberlake will be continuing his 20/20 Experience tour throughout the UK and performing at this year’s V Festival. Tickets are available here.
(Photos courtesy of Louisa Ling.)