12,000 filled the arena. Around 80% being girls with an average age of about seventeen. It wasn’t just his first live show in the UK, it was his first live show ever. There was a real sense of anticipation and young female excitement in the air. As I queued into the venue, I had a strange feeling of “why was I there?” I felt strangely out of place, not enough a die-hard Justin Timberlake fan (i.e. I didn’t want to sleep with him!) Despite that I couldn’t help get slightly anxious as the warm-up act (Jamelia) performed, followed by a long succession of Hip-Hop and R’n’B played over the tannoys, as the final preparations to the stage were made. Pure torture for the already excited females.
The show began with Mr. Timberlake instantly playing with his fans by letting backing dancers fool the audience into thinking it was him. Pulsating screams filled the hall only to subside when a hood would be removed to reveal the would-be popstar. When he finally emerged to ‘Rock Your Body’, this was the cue for all that built up anxiety to erupt.
The show itself, I have to say was not too spectacular. I think this was one of its best features. I expected a huge Hollywood production with over-the-top set designs and fancy special effects. Instead, Timberlake, as show director, seemed to want the songs and especially his own dance moves to be the centre of attention. What it also meant was when there were pyrotechnic flashes, and other production tricks, they had greater impact on the crowd.
My personal favourite moments of the show were undoubtedly these apparent movie stunts Justin threw in. Finishing one song, and having done one of his many solo dancing sequences (this time on top of a piano), he dropped straight through the instrument with a puff of smoke. Then to appear higher up on the stage’s construction to begin ‘Cry Me a River’, whilst swinging from a cable to the stage floor again. Then, later on in the performance, came the part I had anticipated. As he was lifted out and over the lucky front rows by, what has to be said, a very unsubstantial crane, Timberlake began his impression of Officer Larvell Jones from the Police Academy films. A ten minute section developed that included all sorts of human beat box rhythms and sounds taking a lot of inspiration from old school hip-hop from the likes of Run DMC, equally accented by his retro Adidas black and red tracksuit.
Overall, I found the show to be what I had expected, very slick. Even the big, bouncer-esqe, beachball backing singers could move effortlessly when needed. Whether you love him (which probably most women do) or think he’s a ponce (which most men probably do) you will have to accept that, on the evidence of last night, he is going to be around for a long time to come.