Just hours after revealing the release date for The 20/20 Experience's sequel album, Justin Timberlake hit New York City's 3,500-person capacity Roseland Ballroom for an exhilarating set spanning his 11-year solo career.
Based on last night's tight performances and the good ole fashioned showmanship JT & the Tennessee Kids brought to the stage for an hour and 40 minutes, his upcoming tour with Jay-Z may be this summer's must-get ticket.
At the very least, the Legends of Summer Tour will undoubtedly have more style than any other show. Not only are Timberlake & Jay carrying the torch of Rat Pack fashion into 2013, but the former 'N Sync-er masterfully directs his band and audience using his well-honed charisma. When Timberlake playfully derided the crowd's energy level as a mere "eight and a half, if I'm being honest with you," the audience vociferously upped its energy level to satisfy JT and earn a 9/10 ranking. And that kind of suave control is what constitutes real style.
With the boy band patina completely scrubbed off his image, Timberlake channeled and directly paid tribute to the classic R&B acts of the '70s. During a funk-soul recasting of his 2003 hit "Rock Your Body," Timberlake threw in a mini-cover of the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)." He also referenced a few lyrics from Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" during his samba jam "Let the Groove Get In." Those who knew the originals shouted their approval and those who didn't danced happily anyway.
A less likely cover came when Timberlake launched into INXS' 1987 hit "Need You Tonight." While that New Wave act probably isn't a major influence on him, the song's Prince-ly riff allowed it to pass as a distant cousin to the intricate pop-soul sound he mined on The 20/20 Experience.
R&B legends seemed to inform most of the evening, but there were moments during the night that felt downright Zeppelin-esque. By the time "My Love" wrapped he'd turned the FutureSex/LoveSounds hit into a headbanger and "SexyBack" was recast as a chugging rock number.
Although musical BFF Timbaland graced the stage for that 2006 megahit, Jay-Z did not make an appearance during "Suit & Tie." But instead of replacing Hova's verse with a salsa breakdown (which he did during "Like I Love You") or playing a recording of Jay's part, Jay-T himself rapped the featured verse on their ode to tuxes. I'm not saying Mr. Jessica Biel can spit, but it was far from embarrassing. Let's say it was a shade above Madonna's flow but just below Debbie Harry's rhymes on the "Pop Star Attempting to Rap" Scale.
But even though Timberlake slayed "Cry Me a River" and the light show for "Mirrors" brought to mind a '50s prom, the evening's highlight was definitely the Justified opener "Senorita." Aside from the fact that it's a ridiculously fun song, Timberlake demonstrated his casually assured handle on the crowd during the tune's call-and-response portion. Forgoing the whole "I wanna try something right now, see they don't do this anymore" intro, Timberlake turned to the audience and asked, "Do I even need to explain this?" The crowd gave him the collective laugh he was looking for, to which he smiled and confidently said, "F-cking right."
Hell yeah, Justin. You are f-cking right.
Check out all our exclusive photos from the show: