Justin Timberlake photo courtesy of Brian Curski of Brian Curski Photography
Justin Timberlake: Man of the Woods Concert Review by Emily Ness
There is something profound to be said about an artist who has grown and evolved alongside a musical landscape that is ever changing. For singer and songwriter, Justin Timberlake—who’s fame hit like a tidal wave in the early 90’s, and who’s work sparked the flames of a fire that rose with the stars of the 2000’s—this is rightfully so.
The artist—who began his musical career as a child on the Mickey Mouse Club and rose to fame through a popular boy band, followed by a successful solo career—is a man of many hats. From a well mannered Southern boy, to a racey pop superstar, to an R&B icon, to most recently, a country rookie, Timberlake has proven time and time again that he can cross genres successfully.
On Friday, September 28th and Saturday, September 29th, Timberlake brought his latest project, Man of the Woods, to the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.
Perhaps his most unique album to date, Man of the Woods combines signature futuristic beats produced by Timbaland and the Neptunes with lyrics that reflect both Timberlake’s roots as a young man growing up in Memphis, Tennessee and Timberlake’s reality as a husband and father living in Los Angeles, California. Clocking in at 16 tracks, the album adds yet another unique facet to JT’s star studded career because it continues his personal story as an artist. And, a story his show was!
The lights dimmed, the music began and a doorway at the head of the stage illuminated by light made way for Timberlake’s entire team. First ran out the band, then the dancers and finally, Timberlake. No stranger to football, given his many Super Bowl performances, this grand entrance was both symbolic and nostalgic.
Timberlake opened the show with Man Of The Woods’ lead single, “Filthy,” dancing whimsically around the winding stage. His band and back up dancers—formally known as the Tennessee Kids—danced around with him, as intricate stage productions began.
In many respects, the goal of this tour was to bring the outside in. Timberlake achieved this by constructing a captivating forest in the center of the arena, complete with everything from rocks and trees to a stream and a bonfire. Drop down screens that surrounded the stage allowed the audience to see all of this and more—making every seat, the best in the house.
Throughout the two hour performance, JT barely broke a sweat. Seemingly effortlessly,
he performed classics like “Cry Me A River,” “What Goes Around…Comes Around,” and “Rock Your Body.” Additionally, JT performed new hits, such as, “Say Something,” “Midnight Summer Jam” and “Morning Light.” The transitions between past and present tracks were smooth and cohesive, but also fast paced. In doing this, Timberlake painted a marvelous mosaic of moments for fans for both young and old.
Some highlights of the show included the songs: “SexyBack,” where Timberlake showcased his five star dance moves that the world fell in love with many moons ago; “Señorita,” where Timberlake playfully played the piano and “My Love,” where Timberlake hyped the audience up with a soundboard that lit up as he struck each note.
Timberlake’s team, the Tennessee Kids, were equally talented. It was fun to watch them interact with JT, bantering back and forth with their instruments and vocals, and grooving with one another on stage.
At one point, Timberlake gave his team a chance to showcase their individual talent through a collection of solos around the bonfire. This was a bold move that could have taken away from his shine, but did not because Timberlake knows how to work his charm and charisma by encouraging those he shares a stage with, while simultaneously smiling and winking at those in the audience beyond.
JT closed out his show with the song “Can’t Stop the Feeling”—his most recent hit prior to the release of his current album. This grand finale was a farewell of sorts as JT hyped the audience up one last time and thanked them for coming out. Then, he and the Tennessee Kids took a bow and ran off the stage in the same manner that they ran on—leaving the audience feeling energized and empowered.
Collectively, the Man of the Woods tour was marked by dazzling vocals, exquisite choreography and dynamic visuals. It was a performance that delivered for fans both young and old, as well as, a proclamation to the world that although JT is an old school entertainer at heart, he continues to break new ground.