Concert review: Justin Timberlake glides through Gwinnett Center show


Published: December 22, 2014

The first two days of 2015, Justin Timberlake will cap a world tour that began in November 2013, glided through Atlanta’s Philips Arena in December 2013 and returned for an encore at The Arena at Gwinnett Center on Saturday – the last show of the year for Timberlake and his Tennessee Kids band.

For those who saw last year’s performance, nothing was different on this victory lap except, perhaps, a looser Timberlake, who, if you believe his former ‘N Sync mate Joey Fatone, will also become a dad next year.

As impressive as Timberlake is as a singer, dancer and all-around party host – the back of the floor at the arena housed several stylish bars – he’s almost upstaged by a massive production that is both simple and gargantuan.

When he emerged for the opening “Pusher Love Girl,” Timberlake was a figure dwarfed by the gleaming white backdrop that not only ran the full length of the stage, but snaked into a ceiling that alternately projected video and crisp, clean lighting.

Later in the show, the front part of the Lucite-decorated stage would un-hinge and travel to the back of the arena with Timberlake performing on the move.

His band – at least 15 members, including keyboardist Justin “Bishop” Gilbert from Atlanta – appeared and disappeared through trap doors seemingly at the flick of a switch, as did the white baby grand piano that the multi-talented Timberlake slid behind for “Until the End of Time.”

What Timberlake has mastered after a year on the road with the “20/20 Experience,” a tour that leads the solo performer box office for the year with a gross of more than $203 million, is how to expertly augment his catalog live.

Timberlake’s horn section added another dimension to all of his songs, which can sound overproduced on record, while his instincts led to smart modifications and musical extensions on everything from the rock-soul-gospel fusion of “Cry Me a River” to the Jackson-esque “Suit & Tie”

“My Love” was a combination of his varnished dance moves performed in glistening white sneakers (wouldn’t you love to see a dance off between him and Usher?) and the sound of gritty electric guitar, while the smooth, finger-snapping soul of “Summer Love” proved an adept lead-in to the poppy funk of “Love Stoned.”

Throughout the two-set concert, Timberlake projected a likability and confidence that managed to stay on the right side of smug. He even crooned a few lines of “Georgia on My Mind” in his sweetly soulful voice before noting, “You are not wasting this weekend. Y’all came to party tonight!”

Indeed, the sold-out crowd that spanned generations often shrieked as if they were still witnessing Timberlake in his curly-mopped boy band years instead of the guy seductively raising an eyebrow in “Senorita.”

Timberlake has matured so much as a musician and performer – even during the course of this tour – that it’s no longer a matter of wondering if he’ll be back, but when…and how much better than before.