I have a bone to pick with Justin Timberlake’s manager.
Coming on stage five or ten minutes before 8:30pm – the advertised show time – he announced that JT had laryngitis and hadn’t been speaking for the last ten hours but, on a doctor’s advice, had decided he could not perform. Then the blow was “softened” by the news that Tom Jones had stepped in to sing instead.
Once that little hiccup was over – when many tears were shed through the arena before we gradually realised what date it was – it really was time for JT and the upset was worth it.
Opening with a gobsmackingly good version of Pusher Love Girl that alternated between a cappella and string parts before getting more of a beat like the album version, we were introduced to the overriding theme for the night: JT does not do anything by half, and he does not just sing a carbon copy of how he’s recorded a song.
From the moment his silhouette first appeared after the first verse and chorus of the song, revealing where he had been standing in darkness letting his voice alone shine, he was on the go for almost two and a half hours, with just a short intermission.
He mixed his old classics, including Rock Your Body, Senorita and Until The End Of Time – “this one’s for the lovers” – and they contrasted excellently with the massive tunes he’s released in the last year or so, including TKO, Take Back The Night and, of course, Suit & Tie.
The musical innovation never stopped, with mash ups of riffs from all sorts of songs popping up for seamless transitions – from Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit to Kool & The Gang’s Jungle Boogie.
Despite having plenty of his own material that no fan would get bored of, JT even threw in a few exciting covers, namely Jay Z’s Holy Grail, Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. All three are huge artists for anyone to attempt to mimic but JT just used it as a further chance to show his showmanship and prove his own musicality. It completely worked and added some unpredictability to the setlist.
Finishing off with two massive songs, Sexy Back and Mirrors, meant that it was particularly hard to say goodbye to JT who had a mobile set and amazing light show to enhance him even though he showed himself as an amazing performer in his own right. A seemingly impeccable singer, dancer, pianist and guitarist, JT spoke to the crowd sparingly but passionately and the O2 was filled with ladies swooning and men idolising him.