Adam Kargenian Photography
Cover of The Washington Square News, Thursday, February 25, 2014

Cover of The Washington Square News, Thursday, February 25, 2014

TIMBERLAKE TAKES BACK MSG

“Even superstars get sick.”

That was the response given to an inquiry about Justin Timberlake’s canceled show at Madison Square Garden this past Wednesday, the first of two back-to-back concerts scheduled before Timberlake capped his week on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.

Instead, with Wednesday’s show pushed to Friday, JT took the stage Thursday evening ailing from an undisclosed “cold.”  Even if he was sick, Timberlake refused to show it. With his band The Tennessee Kids at his back, Timberlake crooned through his sweet and smoky rendition of the opener, “Pusher Lover Girl,” and didn’t stop for the rest of the night, seamlessly converging R&B, soul, and pop into a two hour conglomeration of the senses.

 The set jumped from album to album in the first act of the concert, showcasing his locking skills and vocal finesse through elaborate choreography and instances of limpid falsetto. Anything from his discography was in play here; multiple tracks, notably “Don’t Hold the Wall,” were performed from his most recent two albums, while Part I of the concert would crescendo to conclude with Timberlake’s original hit from 2003’s Justified, “Cry Me a River.”

Part II was another animal entirely. Much more heavy on Timberlake’s new material, the second act opened after a ten-minute intermission with an epileptic-inducing array of lasers to accompany “Only When I Walk Away.” Timberlake was never short on visuals in multiple mediums, implementing an enormous moving stage that floated over the crowd to-and-from a separate, smaller stage in the middle of the audience (and, while dormant, provided a personal hell for the photographers). But outside of the impressive aesthetics, this pop star shines best when he leaves the complexities to his music. Such was the case for “What Comes Around Goes Around,” which began in the swarming electric melodies of the original, but concluded in a primitive acoustic rendition, with Timberlake simply singing and strumming a single Gibson.

But with all the focus Part II brought to “The 20/20 Experience,” Timberlake was sure not to forget his roots, either. Multiple covers were performed throughout the night in odes to Justin’s historical influence, and they ranged in scope and sound. The King of Pop made a resurrected appearance in a cover of “Human Nature,” and Timberlake’s Memphis roots were touched with the serenaded strings of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel.” Timberlake even revisited his boy-band days with Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.”

Timberlake’s build up to his exit was powerful; he fired off a trio of “Suit & Tie,” “Sexyback,” and “Mirrors” that thrice opened and closed with triumphant finesse. As he exited the stage to the cries of his fans, Timberlake’s class and faultless cool were as apparent as when he walked on. This is a pop star that has pushed himself above the fray.

2/25/14