The kid from Tennessee returned to Chicago to strut his stuff March 27-28 at the United Center.
At the beginning of his career, Justin Randall Timberlake left his humble beginnings behind, starting a cast member of The Mickey Mouse Club and then moving into the *NYSNC boy-band world. The two-time Grammy winner has produced some major solo hits over the years, and fans were ready to see him live and in action.
The night began with a DJ in the center of the space in the middle of a long-winding runway stage. Opening band The Shadowboxers, who Windy City Times recently interviewed, struggled a bit to play all sides of the stage and were constantly blocked from view by the random trees placed around the arena.
The setting worked better in Timberlake's case, mainly because he barely stopped moving the entire time. He began with new track "Filthy" that some compared to a George Michael-type sound. Then, it blended into another new song, "Midnight Summer Jam," that was a step in the right direction. He mixed hits like "SexyBack" in well with the newer songs. "Senorita" and "Suit & Tie" had vibrant energy, while "Flannel" was forgettable.
Toward the end of the show a campfire was lit and, with guitar in hand, Timberlake sat down with his gang. Backup singers sang cover songs like Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor." People were here to hear Timberlake, not his singers; this could easily be cut to make it a smoother show overall.
There was also a strange video about love that needed a little more diversity, although it did have some female-on-female affection ( which could've been there to appease some straight guys ). Like much of the night, it was a little safe. Why not show a video montage of past acting and Saturday Night Live performances? That would have been more entertaining.
He gathered his dance team and climbed down to be on the floor with lucky fans up close and personal. It was magic moments like these that the show needed.
The hyperactive performer finished with his popular hit "Can't Stop the Feeling" after a long night.
These days, Timberlake is a married man with a son and has released a new, more mature album with a variety of styles. Some critics are calling Man of the Woods a misstep, but this can all be easily fixed. A deluxe edition with catchier singles will most likely be in the future, to solve the problem.
These Woods should go back to their roots for concerts in the future. Why not form *NYSNC for a reunion tour? How about cultivating his gay fan base? There were obviously many LGBT folks at the Chicago show those two nights. Artists such as P!nk have done just that and also recently played the same venue for two nights. Acrobatics and a stronger album created an unforgettable concert experience for her so step it up next time, Justin!
There are plenty of new male pop artists right behind him ready to take his crown, such as Shawn Mendes or Charlie Puth. There is also the other Justin, Bieber, who continues to put out solid songs.
While in town Timberlake had dinner at Alinea in Lincoln Park and posted photos on Instagram, even inviting the staff to join him on tour. Speaking of food, let's give concertgoers something for which they hunger. People paid a lot of money for tickets to his show and they deserve a good time for the money spent. He has a magnetic stage presence that needs to continually be focused or, just like the lighting in the United Center, it gets a bit spotty.
This night felt a lot like his past Super Bowl performancenot terrible, but it could have been better.
Follow more of the Man of the Woods Tour at JustinTimberlake.com .