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Justin proves that he can live up to the hype
on November 25, 2007
Whenever one of these young superstars comes shooting to the skies almost from one day to the next, one must inevitably ask oneself whether it's just all hype, or they are actually worth the fuzz. I have myself had a casual acquiantance with Justin Timberlake's music for the last couple of years - after all, anybody who does watch MTV just once every year will have stumbled into hits like Rock Your Body, Cry Me A River, Sexyback or What Goes Around (Comes Around) - and so, when Justin stopped by Copenhagen this year, to play for a whooping 54.000 people, I decided to give it a try, just to see what it was all about. And I must admit that back then, I was quite blown away. Not that everything was perfect on that occasion, but he just delivered a show that left no doubt that this was a power to reckon with, in showbiz and in music.
Therefore, when this DVD was announced, I decided to give it ago - to relive what was a great night of fun and music, and to see whether it could stand the test of return to subject. And I must say that overall, this does stand very well the test of time, at least so far. Again, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good, and more important, it's a very honest release.
The DVD opens with an interview section with Justin and band, which seagues into opening sequence and title track FutureSex/LoveSounds off latest CD - which also happened to be one of the strongest moments on the CD, and I must say that here perhaps the show falls slightly flat. I will emphasize and give credit to the fact that the songs are not just reproductions of the album tracks, they are fully interpreted in terms of being played live, and this quite stripped down version of the track perhaps falls somewhat short on the vocal part. I would like more presence of Timberlake in the song - large parts are delivered only by the multi-member back-up team, which is a bit of a shame. The same is true for second cut Like I Love You, and although both performances have all the groove one would expect of cuts as solid as these, the DVD does not come off on the best footing in my oppinion.
From third cut, My Love, Justin starts to step more into character, but I'll say his voice really starts to shine from Señorita and Sexy Ladies and onwards. It is evident that Timberlake doesn't have the strongest voice in the bussiness - one could argue that his voice is capable, but nothing more than that - but I will say that he does get the best of what he has got, which is sometimes as important as being talented when it comes down to showmanship. The vocal arrangement leans heavily on the backing section, but Timberlake does more than just lip-synch, and I appreciate the fact that whenever he sings, he sings genuinely live, and once he's started does that better than what I would have expected - and he certainly proves that his smooth falsetto is not just a studio-infused feature. Also one should add that he does a lot of movement on stage - dancing, and running (more about this later!), which naturally takes focus away from the vocal - not necessarily a good trade-off in my oppinion, but I guess that's part of the show, take it or leave it.
The tempo is decreased with the unset of ballad Until The End Of The World from the resent album - not my favorite cut of the record, but Justin does a blistering performance here, which is probably why this track has also been released as live video to promote the DVD release on music TV stations. Next up, however, is major smash hit What Goes Around (Comes Around), which clocks in at a whooping 10 minutes and is one of the absolute highlights of the concert. This is one of the great examples of how they rework the songs in the live setting: The song opens with a beautiful piano intro (the man himself at work here), and I must emphasize here the great sound on this release, which retains the full dynamic range of the music as it was played: The piano section opens quietly, and then halfway through drums, keyboard and guitar sets in to form a roaring crescendo. Amazing, and the song has not even kicked in yet. The song proper is pretty faithful to the album version, which is not a bad thing at all, but also adds a much rougher edge with more dominant guitars, and I must admit that this particular track really wow's me. The final cut before the intermission is the funky Chop Me Up, where Justin is joined on stage by name-sake Timbaland, producer, songwriter et al.
Blissfully cut out from this feature is the overly long and self-indulgant Timbaland-tribute-DJ-section featured in the interlude. This was both overly long and bordering on embarrasing, so I whole-heartedly support its omision. Instead we get a short interview with the two Timbers, before going into the opener of second set, Rock Your Body. I should mention here ther generally very well-structured set, which is a deffinite pro of this concert: Ballance is very well retained between old hits, new hits, and new unknown tracks, and the music flows very well, sometimes uninterrupted, from one track to the next.
The major weakness of this tour, however, is also displayed in this next part: With only two albums in his catalogue, Timberlake has only a limited number of songs to pick between, the next handful of tracks therefore moves far into what I consider banalities: The acoustic medley featuring a couple of N-Sync songs (Gone, Take It From Here, Last Night) is downright boring, whereas the dull Damn Girl from the new album is presented in an overly long version, complete with semi-naked girls which does nothing for Timberlakes musical credibility.
Things turn better, however, with the groovy ballad Summer Love and the almost gospel-like Losing My Way - one of my odd favorites from the recent album, here delivered as a sing-along over playback choir which I think is a wise choice, as the gospel singers form an important back-droping to Justin's fragile voice here. Speaking of back-droppings, I should also mention the ingenious scene-design here: Scene is placed in-the-round, i.e. audience is all around the stage. To solve this problem, semi-transparent fabrics are lowered at different parts around the stage, and works at the same time as giant screens for those who cannot see the man (because of distance, or simply because he's on the other side of stage!) and at the same time as emphasize of the light show. In this particular track, Justin is surrounded on all sides by images of the gospel singers, thus hiding him almost completely from the audience, and vice-versa, making a nice reference to the song catch line "Is anybody out there?". I should also say that Justin does an admirable job in moving around the stage, getting out to all parts of the audience, something which is not a small feat in a venue of this size with a 4-sided stage.
The final part of the set consist of a safe pick of major hits, and nothing to complain about here: Firstly, a surprisingly gritty delivery of Cry Me A River (no mention of Britney here!), this seagues into the funky Lovestoned / I Think That She Knows, which again seagues into a surprisingly gritty, at times almost sonically dirty version of Sexyback. Again I must compliment the man for his courage to rework his own songs, even if they are still true to the album versions, the live versions deffinitely has a character of their own, making this release worth having not only for the visiuals. Indeed, I'm somewhat surprised the package does not come with a CD with selected cuts, like similar releases from other artist (I will take the liberty to recommend Kylie's Fever Tour CD/DVD release and Madonna's Confessions Tour CD/DVD releases, both excellent releases).
A bit surprising for me, when I saw the show in Copenhagen, was the choice for encore, (Another Song) All Over Again. This song never did much for me on the album, but the intimate setting here, with Justin sitting alone at the piano, was amazingly strong, forming a nice contrast to the loud inferno of Sexyback. And the boy sings his heart out here! Since the concert here, this songs stands especially strong for me, and I must say it's a surprise highlight of the DVD, and brings the concert to a worthy conclusion.
OVERALL RATING 8/10
Considering that the man only has two CDs in his bag, this offers both a very satisfactory overview of his career and a surprisingly robust selection of tracks - even though some of them could have been left out, had one had more material to pick from (Sexy Ladies, Damn Girl, and the acoustic medley comes to mind).
Technically, this is a pleasing release. Sound is perfect, and picture is great - and the editing is not too jumpy, as is often the case in concert movies. I could have gone without the cut-ins of interview snippets or comments a couple of places, but overall nothing really compromising.
On the bottom line, I must say that with this, Justin seems to emphasize that he is indeed a name to be taken seriously in the music bussiness. He might not be the worlds best singer, but as an entertainer, he's on the top.