Forget sexy. JT is bringing curvy back. Say what you want about Justin Timberlake, the man does not seem to go in for the emaciated aesthetic. The women among his back-up singers and dance crew are frankly female in form. Tiny waists, I grant you, but hippy hips and round butts. The better to gyrate with, perhaps, but the anti-anorexic point remains the same. It was true, too, maybe even more so, for Pink, whose girl-love, trapeze act, shit-kicking opening set deserves a closer look than the capacious JPJ—and a distracted, text-messaging audience—could provide.
All of which, on the body image front, is good news for the legions of teenage girls who made up at least two-thirds of the crowd at Sunday night’s seamless show. The other good news: After his 17-song set, entirely comprising tunes from his two solo records, no fan (of any age) should ever again have to justify her attachment to JT. He plays (piano, guitar, synth, just to name a few); he sings (sounding at times like a seasoned gospel singer, especially on big emotional numbers like “Losing My Way”); he dances, I mean he really dances; he jokes around (he busted out a few bars of the not-ready-for-primetime “Dick in a Box” satire that has been in heavy rotation on YouTube); he wears his clothes well; and he’s endowed with the kind of joyful charisma that can make you forget you’re watching a multi-platinum musician performing in the round along with 14,000 strangers (including, in my section, a set of Paris/Lindsay wannabes who planned to teeter their way onto the tour bus if they had to blow every security guard along the way to get there).
The show (which featured an “intermission” set of turntable work by Timbaland, JT’s producer) was entirely free of low moments, from the second Timberlake emerged on stage in a blue suit and heavy white sneakers, thin and crowned by the faintest stubble of hair, looking like Michael Stipe by way of David Bowie—The Disco Singer who Fell to Earth. Boy band? What boy band? This was a confident, grown-up artist in our midst. Highlights: “Sexy Ladies,” with its extended dance number that put his nonchalant foot-slip/toe-drag/stutter-skip syncopated choreography on rich display. Timberlake is actually more graceful than his dance moves sometimes let on; he goes in for the kind of slightly awkward, joint-flicking-on-every-beat performances that are MTV’s lasting contribution to dance history, but a trained eye staring intently at his very fine form (who, me? I was only doing my job!) can discern the kind of lean, sustained attack that he’s capable of. Also, “What Goes Around,” the current hit single from FutureSex/LoveSounds and “Love Stoned,” another lovely example of the kind of disco-pop operatic-ballad mash-up that he first perfected on “Cry Me a River.”
The only possible complaint to make about the show—and it’s not unimportant—concerns the sound. I grant you, the John is a concrete-lined basketball arena, not Carnegie Hall. But really, could nothing be done to bring the heart-shaking bass down? It’s maybe the ultimate testament to Timberlake’s charisma—and voice—that he more than stood up to the texture-obscuring effects of the sound system. At the end, JT commended the audience for being so enthusiastic and into the show. If he could have heard us over the thumpa-booma-chucka of the PA, we would have said the same back to him.