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Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisWhen Justin Timberlake came to the stage to the beats of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," it was clear his days of boy band imagery and saccharine pop hooks were long over. In place of that clean cut appeal came a much more aggressive, sensuality-driven sonic overload of pulsating dance beats, eclectic, Latin-tinged instrumentation and a highly polished stage show that turned the one time member of 'N Sync into a bon-a-fide solo megastar. Not only is he one of the very few (if not only) member of that pre-disposed pack to shed the past, but if this tour in support of the new FutureSex/Love Sounds (Jive) was any indication, he's destined to be tomorrow's pre-eminent pop star.
At 26-years-old, Timberlake has his finger on the pulse of today's sounds, though the show was replete with nods to a childhood racked with influences- including none other than the "King of Pop" himself Michael Jackson. During early cuts "Like I Love You" and "My Love," the singer/songwriter offered a impressive mimic of the gloved one, turning the focus away from each tunes' infectious appeal towards dance moves that rivaled the Thriller era. Though a bit more risque than Jackson (especially with a seductive female dance troupe) the pair shared an affinity for grandeur and showmanship.
Timberlake and his massive entourage of background singers and band members were too vast to count, but they took full advantage of a circular stage that gave just about any seat in the sold out show (his first of two nights in town) an appealing view. But more than his highly interactive persona, the headliner had all eating out of his hand come the fan favorites "Sexy Ladies," "Cry Me A River," and of course, the monstrously selling single "SexyBack," which has lit the world on fire, backed by the glimmering production of acclaimed producer Timbaland.
Sure, Timberlake will always have his skeptics and some could objectively say that he was able to hide occasionally inadequate vocal presentations behind the enormous production. And while he's not the strongest singer on earth, at least he gave gallant attempts to showcase acoustic guitar and keyboard skills beyond the notable dance steps. Those gestures alone sure did make up for the absurdity of a previous time he appeared at the very same venue with 'N Sync, which featured no less than all five members having an airborne squirt gun war while covering Christopher Cross' "Sailing." Thankfully Timberlake has long since shed that skin, using this tour as his ultimate distancing point and potential for even greater heights a la his most lauded influence.
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