Live Music + Gig Reviews

Justin Timberlake @ O2 Arena, London

10 July 2007

Having ascended several sets of escalators just to reach our seats, and the surroundings resembling closer to that of an air hanger than an auditorium, it could only mean one thing. It’s the stadium gig, where the Mexican wave will never stop being a good idea, and the masses shuffle round to catch a sight of the small dots on stage before resigning themselves to a giant screen.

But whereas more questionable acts have played such settings recently (I’m looking at you Snow Patrol), there’s no doubt that Justin Timberlake is here where he belongs. Having been performing since before he could read in the Mickey Mouse Club alongside the likes of Britney Spears and Fergie (who opens the night’s proceedings, only to realise her solo stuff is so calamitous she has to resort to dire Black Eyed Peas medleys), he is clearly an incredibly talented performer.

As well as the striking dance moves and unfailing showmanship, he is also on hand to play a number of instruments. From the flamenco-like guitar work in Like I Love You to the solemn turn on the piano for the schmaltzy Until The End Of Time. His accompanying band keeps proceedings interesting also, with no less than three drummers and a range of backing singers.

It was the final night of his European tour and Timberlake took the opportunity to lap up the adoration: “If I could choose one place to finish any tour, it would be here” he proclaims, much to the delight of the screaming audience (not to mention to mention woops of “What’s up London England!” another stadium show staple).

The first of the Timbaland collaborations of the evening is a superb Chop Me Up, with the pair racing round the stage, eventually spitting exchanges face to face and proving to be the night’s high point.

The superstar producer also graces the decks for an atmosphere-killing interval, taking the opportunity to publicly masturbate over his output from the last decade while the audience caught up at the bar. Not so for Timberlake, who picked things up with an electric Rock Your Body and the cheeky Damn Girl when is accompanied by an array of dancing strippers, causing more shrieks from the by now jealous hormonal females.

A lengthy and unusually bromidic SexyBack bring proceedings to a close, save the slushy Another Song, where a solo Timberlake takes to the piano for a final time and can be seen wiping tears away as he thanks the audience for making him so welcome.

It is (and pardon the pun here) justified praise. Tonight proved that as well as being responsible for some of this decade’s best pop moments, Justin Timberlake is among the best performers and will be continuing to headline venues of this stature for years to come.

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Justin Timberlake @ O2 Arena, London