Justin Timberlake can do it all.
He can sing. He can dance. He can sing and dance at the same time. Yet, as he traveled to Columbus on Monday night as a part of his “Man of the Woods” world tour, he performed like he felt he had something to prove and it showed.
Donning a blue jean jacket and a pair of bright orange shoes, Timberlake entered Nationwide Arena to a roaring crowd, beginning his set with “Filthy” and “Midnight Summer Jam,” the first two songs off his latest record “Man of the Woods.”
However, it did not take very long for Timberlake to get to what the crowd wanted to hear. With a strong tenor voice and an unmistakable falsetto, the former NSYNC member weaved his way through his catalog in the first half of his set. With lively drums, electric guitar and a four-piece horn section, Timberlake used his 15-member backing band to make songs like “My Love” and “Mirrors” sound brand new.
That level of orchestration did not work for all of the hits he performed. Beginning the song at his drum pad, tapping out the familiar beat created by Timbaland, Timberlake emphasized the simplicity of one of his original hits “Cry Me a River.” However, as the song continued, the build from the backing band continued on, erasing any sense of the original beat that put him on the map as a solo artist in the first place.
As the show continued, the headliner began to focus more and more on his latest record. Putting on a red flannel, Timberlake and his band, what he called “The Tennessee Kids,” sat around what seemed to be an actual campfire, playing his attempted ode to country/Americana music such as “Drink You Away,” and “Flannel.”
He also used this opportunity to showcase his backup singers, each picking a cover, such as “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac or “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, to show what they could do individually. This was the point where the crowd became bored, with the majority of those in seats sitting down and losing interest.
Without much critical praise for his latest record, this part of the show felt like Timberlake forcing those in attendance to appreciate his new-found take on popularizing country, trying too hard to make it more mainstream or radio-friendly than it was considered to be.
As this part of the set ended, Timberlake actually succeeded in the heartfelt, acoustic sound he had been looking for in the entire show. However, it was not from any song from “Man in the Woods.” With his band surrounding him on a platform in the middle of the arena, he serenaded the crowd with an acoustic rendition of “What Goes Around, Comes Around,” allowing the crowd to focus on the lyrics more than the beat behind it.
In the final part of his set, Timberlake went back to what he is good at, dancing with his backup dancers and entertaining the crowd with his older hits, such as “Rock Your Body,” “Summer Love” and “Like I Love You.”
Ending the show with “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Timberlake left on a high note, with everyone in Nationwide Arena dancing and singing along.
In the 16 years he has put out solo material, Timberlake has made himself one of the more engaging performers currently in the music industry, showing that with his slick dance moves and singing voice on Monday night. However, promoting what many have considered as a sub-par record, Timberlake tried too hard to make that the main idea of his show, which affected its overall quality.