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Live Review: Justin Timberlake – 2nd October 2014 – Allphones Arena, Sydney, Australia

4 min read

If anyone needed reassurance that Justin Timberlake’s music career was back and better than ever, fans at Sydney’s Allphones Arena were given it last night with the pop prince performing the second of two shows in the city.

After several years out of the music spotlight to focus on a fruitful acting career that saw the musician deliver fine performances in The Social Network, Bad Teacher and In Time, in 2013 he offered us his first two studio albums since 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds in the shape of the commercially successful The 20/20 Experience and its quick follow up The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 with the singles Suit and Tie and Mirrors solidifying his return as one of music’s most successful artists.

Changes in Timberlake’s style have been clearly evident. Where his earlier material was rooted in pop, the end of his 7 year hiatus has allowed him to emerge with a much more R’n’B sound thanks to the help of Timbaland and rap heavyweight Jay Z who Timberlake resumed his live performances alongside when the pair co-headlined the brief 2013 Legends of the Summer tour. In naming his tour “The 20/20 Experience”, JT is setting clear expectations that his show is going to give audiences a unique concert experience. “20/20” implies sharp visual acuity, or clear focus so I was curious to see how this was going to translate into the show.

The dramatic opening to last nights performance included JT appearing at the back of the stage first, followed by the entire band, The Tennessee Kids, complete with 2 drummers, horns, guitars and backing vocals, rising up from underneath the stage in front of him and launching into an extended rendition of Pusher Love Girl. The stage featured a backdrop of inter-connected white hexagons spanning the width of almost the entire arena and extending up over the top of the stage, which hid lighting as well as projected various pre-recorded graphics, videos, and live video throughout the performance. Dressed in retro black and white, JT immediately showed off his trademark dance moves and delivered a first set with songs from all four of his studio album releases and included the singers signature hit Cry Me A River, My Love, and Rock Your Body.  On each of the songe delivered in the meaty 29-song set, his voice was smooth and lush, and he slipped in and out of his falsetto voice making it seem effortless. He engaged the audience along the way and at one point had the entire arena singing along, with lighters (or cellphones) held high.

After a short intermission, the second set kicked off with three songs from his The 20/20 Experience albums, which is where the show got more interesting. While the first half of the set was made up of songs that were perhaps a little lesser known to your casual Timberlake listener, the latter half of the set gave the night a kick of energy and was evidently the draw to the show.  The front part of the stage was elevated by large hydraulics on each side of the arena and separated itself to form a narrow catwalk which began slowly moving across the arena floor. JT, 2 horn players and a few backing vocalists were performing along the catwalk which had a clear Lucite floor allowing fans below a unique view from underneath. Stairs extended up and outwards over the main floor to above the first section of seats, allowing fans seated in those sections to get a very up-close view of Timberlake as he passed directly over them while he performed and engaged the audience. After reaching the back of the arena, he performed much of the second half on a small platform, including covers of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel,  Kool and the Gang’s Jungle Boogie and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature which was fitting given his recent collaboration on the King of Pops latest collection as well as an acoustic performance of What Comes Around, the highlight of the second half. After travelling on the catwalk back to the front stage, he closed with Bel Biv Devoe’s Poison, and then Suit & Tie.  He returned to the stage in front of an ecstatic crowd to finish the show with Sexy Back and finally the gorgeous Mirrors before bowing out to the salivating crowd.

While there were a couple of lulls in the performance which were found mainly in the opening half of the set list, the overall feeling from the crowd was that this was a night to remember. The stage set up was impressive which too many moving parts to keep track of and the vocal finesse of Timberlake proved why he is regarded as one of the finest performers of the past 20 years. Throughout the set the musician moved effortlessly through the up-tempo dance numbers, glided through the ballads and offered fans diversity with his recent material proving just as popular as his classic Justified hits.

Set list

Set 1:
Pusher Love Girl
Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)
Rock Your Body
Don’t Hold the Wall
Like I Love You
My Love
Summer Love
Until the End of Time
Holy Grail (JAY Z cover)
Cry Me a River

Set 2:
Only When I Walk Away
Drink You Away
Tunnel Vision
Let the Groove Get In
Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley cover)
Not a Bad Thing
Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover)
What Goes Around… Comes Around
Take Back the Night
Jungle Boogie (Kool & The Gang cover)
Poison (Bell Biv DeVoe cover)
Suit & Tie