Justin Timberlake November 29, MGM Grand Garden Arena
Given his track record, to walk into a Justin Timberlake performance is to expect perfection. The man has over 20 years of stage time under his belt (country singer, tween sweetheart, boy-band heartthrob) and three full-length solo albums, each with extended stays on the charts. By now it would seem that trying to outdo his own most popular moments would become a futile practice, that eventually he can’t be any better. So with that in mind, when the 32-year-old pop star launched into opener “Pusher Love Girl” with no less than two percussionists, two keyboards, two guitars, one bassist, a horn section and four backing vocals, a promise was made and delivered: This is the best Justin Timberlake that Justin Timberlake has ever been.
Over the course of almost three hours (with an intermission), Timberlake balanced songs from this tour’s namesake album, The 20/20 Experience, with symphonic overture renditions of hits from Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, including a slowed down, James Bondian-intro take on FS/LS’s title track and a heavy rock-out version of his 2002 debut single, “Like I Love You.” From there on out it was all “My Love” this and “Love Stoned” that, ramping up an incredibly high-energy power hour of Timberlake’s biggest tracks.
The second set, briefly featuring Timberlake as a bluesy acoustic guitar player, didn’t have the same kick in the gut of the prior. To lukewarm response, the man ventured into the darker cuts from part two of 20/20. The save: holding Timberlake and his dancers, the catwalk rose above the audience on massive pneumatic legs and rolled from the front to the back of the venue, moving the performance front and center for the folks in the outfield. And in response they lost their damn minds.
There’s been plenty of skepticism toward 20/20’s six-minute-average track times, oft off-limits in pop. But tonight, as the band blew holes in the ozone layer, I finally understood. These are songs meant to be performed, by a man born to do so. He’s going to sing and dance all eight minutes of that opener. And almost three hours later, he’ll still be singing and dancing when he closes the night with the eight-minute, triple-platinum chart-smasher, “Mirrors.” Because that’s what he does. And that’s what he’ll do forever.