If I told my 21-year-old self that in the next decade Glasgow would build a new music venue, he’d be delighted. If I told him that the first act he would see in said venue would be Justin Timberlake, he’d laugh before spewing flaming sambuca. Times change and the 31-year-old found himself attending a Justin Timberlake concert at the SSE Hydro.
When the missus informed me she had bought two tickets for JT I asked myself “who would she be going with?” Turned out it was me, and after dragging her to a local pro-wrestling event, I didn’t have much choice. To be honest a part of me was curious. It’s not a gig I would normally have attended but when in Rome…get a few beers down you.
I wasn’t expecting much from the concert but I was anticipating a high-budget spectacle. The large honeycomb set which also doubled up as video screens was impressive. The familiar strings of ‘Pusher Love Girl’ echoed around the Hydro as a gigantic shadow of Justin appeared. The man revealed himself, the crowd went mental and I was intrigued. I wasn’t familiar with ‘Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)’ but when ‘Rock your Body’ started up I found my toe involuntarily tapping. His band the Tennessee Kids had risen from the stage and filled the venue with an explosive sound that took me by surprise. ‘FutureSex/LoveSound’ slowed down the groove before ‘Like I Love You’ picked things up. The debut single that marked his solo career was first released 12 years ago. Age hadn’t affected it as it sounded as fresh now as it did then. By this point he had captured my interest. The songs were catchy and it was difficult not to admire his dancing, something it turns out he’s very good at.
‘Cry Me A River’ came on as I went to the bar, which turned out to be great timing on my part as the fuck you to Britney signalled the end of the first act. ‘Drink You Away’ was dedicated to the home crowd accompanied by a Scottish accent that the star admitted made him sound like Shrek. Cue much laughter from his adoring fans (and me). Timberlake used the song to showcase his guitar skills which coupled with his piano playing had me wondering if he was going to add the power of flight to his talents.
Fans at the back of the venue didn’t miss out on the action as the front of the stage rose and moved over the crowd. This led to a brilliant cover of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ with the Tennessee Kids testing the foundations of the building. Ballad ‘Not A Bad Thing’ was forgettable by comparison. Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ was next up for the cover treatment before an acoustic version of ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’. ‘Take Back the Night’ picked the tempo back up before a blistering rendition of ‘Jungle Boogie’ that had everyone out of their seats and dancing. Even me.
The party wasn’t over yet though, not that anyone was complaining. ‘Sexy Back’ was met with screams that could level a building as its seductive groove exploded from the PA. It’s not a song I’ve been particularly fond of in the past but my opinion quickly changed. The show closed with ‘Mirrors’ allowing everyone to catch their breath and leave feeling warm and fuzzy. After over two hours of songs, dance and lasers it was goodnight from JT and the Tennessee Kids and I was converted.
Am I going to go out and buy an album now? Unlikely, but I would happily see him again. The musicianship, as expected, was flawless but I was impressed with how much of a complete set JT and the Tennessee Kids were. They didn’t feel like a mere backing band of session musicians and to be fair he never treated them as such. Of course, no matter how good the band were the focus was always going be on Timberlake. His musical style is difficult to pigeon-hole and his performance is the same. Crooner, dancer, soul, jazz, spectacle; I think I even saw the kitchen sink on standby.
A complete showman that has the musical credibility to back up his ability to entertain. Everyone on stage looked like they were having the time of their lives and it didn’t matter if it was just an act, what mattered was that it was convincing. And by default it was infectious. As good as the gig was I still think he missed a trick by not playing ‘Motherlover’. Maybe next time.