Timberlake takes soul, pop and hip-hop to a whole new level

Justin Timberlake Image Provided by Tennman Records
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After tipping off “The 20/20 Experience” with a stadium tour alongside Jay-Z last summer, Justin Timberlake is back on the road leaving behind a trail of sold out shows and ecstatic audiences. Aside from the fact that the singer/songwriter/actor/all around entertainer is all by himself this round, the outing also marks his first supporting “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2,” which along with the initial installment, marks his first new musical material since 2006.

…Timberlake evokes many of the greats that came before him, while consistently managing to tweak the formula alongside current trends to become one of the most vibrant voices of his generation.

Justin Timberlake

Photo Provided by Tennman Records

But Timberlake more than made up for lost time, not only delivering at least a half-dozen tunes from each volume, but amply highlighting his solo breakthrough “Justified” and even bigger blockbuster “FutureSex/LoveSounds” during the first of two capacity-packed United Center shows (where he returns on Monday). Indeed, the 33-year-old superstar is the preeminent hit maker of the last ten years, who besides offering sheer delectability, possesses plenty of songwriting substance and old school sensibilities (visually supplemented with a set straight out of the soul’s golden era, amplified by plenty of today’s production marvels).

Throughout a two act, two-and-a-half hour performance, Timberlake could just as comfortably rev up the dance party (“Gimme What I Don’t Know,” “Rock Your Body”) as he could get seductive (“Like I Love You,” “Until The End Of Time”), while even making a fairly convincing case as a formable hip-hop force (“TKO,” “Holy Grail”). In fact, the whole first set was a study in versatility, capped off with the pulsating pop of “Cry Me A River,” though it was all a mere a tease for the magnetism that was to come.

After settling in with a few more familiar songs from yesteryear (like the Latin-infused “Senorita”), Timberlake and several members of his massive entourage were transported over the ground floor on a massive platform to the rhythmic beats of “Let The Groove Get In.” Once they touched down at their destination, the leader let loose all the more as a singer, dancer and acoustic guitar player, delivering a colorful, somewhat unexpected cover of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” and seamlessly merging his tenderhearted “Not A Bad Thing” with Michael Jackson’s immortal “Human Nature.”

There were plenty more shout-outs to his vast influence pool, from Kool & The Gang’s funky “Jungle Boogie” accompanying “Take Back The Night” and the fellow original “Murder” blending effortlessly with Bell Biv DeVoe’s new jack swinger “Poison.” Following a suave rendition of “Suit & Tie,” Timberlake took further charge with his ultimate dance floor filler “SexyBack,” which naturally incited a near riot of shaking bodies in the aisles. By comparison, “Mirrors” was a somewhat subdued finale, but as the sea of faces up to the very last row sang every word, it further highlighted its author’s uncanny ability to mold an unshakable hook. Toss it all together, and Timberlake evokes many of the greats that came before him, while consistently managing to tweak the formula alongside current trends to become one of the most vibrant voices of his generation.