Sunday 24 September 2017

Special spectacle becomes one of concerts of year

Review: Justin Timberlake

John Meagher

John Meagher

Justin Timberlake is an all-singing, all-dancing superstar and, of late, a bankable Hollywood fixture. He's got something of that Rat Pack chutzpah too, and the sort of confidence that can't be faked.

He offers a masterclass in how to make audacious, genre-hopping, intricately arranged pop work in the context of the Phoenix Park's wide-open spaces.

Granted, he's in town with a crack team of musicians and backing singers, but unlike many of his peers, he is at the centre of it all. And what a spectacle it is.

He opts for a crowd-pleasing set that majors heavily on the hits from debut album 'Justified' early on. He opens with an urgent, thrilling rendition of that album's signature song, 'Like I Love You', and demonstrates some neat moves in a sexy version of 'Senorita'. But it's a brilliantly worked 'Cry Me A River' that truly wows.

His new, comeback album, 'The 20/20 Experience', may not boast such accessible songs, and one might have worried about how they would translate live. Remarkably, they sound even more ambitious than on record.


Timberlake shows what a remarkable vocalist he is, whether he's singing a capella, rapping or laying claim to the blue-eyed soul crown.

That voice is especially striking on 'Until the End of Time'. It begins as a love-lorn ballad with Timberlake at piano before dissolving into a call-and-response with the crowd.

And he puts those vocals to good use when channelling the ghost of Michael Hutchence on a reverential take of the INXS song, 'Need You Tonight'.

He's even more comfortable with a rambunctious rendering of The Jackson 5's 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)' that sees at least half his band join him in a choreographed routine straight from 1978.

The audience loves it, but is even more enthused by the staccato, high-energy soul-pop of 'Dance With Me', another of his early 2000s monster hits.

A special gig turns into one of the concerts of the year, with a rock-oriented, gospel-tinged 'Mirrors', especially as every aspect of its sophisticated construction is performed.

Attempting such a feat in an intimate venue would have been impressive; to make it work on such a large scale is staggering.

Irish Independent

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