Justin Timberlake “Man of the Woods” world tour

Justin Timberlake album
Justin Timberlake album "Man of the Woods"
Music review

When the ball dropped on New Year’s Day, Justin Timberlake wasted no time in ensuring 2018 is to be his year. After a notable hiatus from the music industry, having not released an album since 2013. Timberlake released a surprising three singles in January alone.

The singles included “Filthy” on January 5th peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed subsequently by “Supplies on January 19th and “Say Something featuring Chris Stapleton on January 26th, which also peaked at #9.

Justin Timberlake photo by Ryan McGinley
Justin Timberlake photo by Ryan McGinley

The dicey move was actually brilliant given Timberlake’s long-awaited Man of the Woods album release on February 2nd, which topped the Billboard 200, and highly-anticipated Super Bowl LII halftime performance just days after on February 4th, to a televised audience of 103.4 million viewers.

It was evident Timberlake was back

Justin Timberlake and his camp did a superb job in ensuring he was everywhere as the year began. By the time the Man of the Woods World Tour kicked off in March, it was evident JT was back. Despite initiating this era with a new sound and mixed reviews all around, by the time the tour opened it had already grossed $100 million. This is an accomplishment in a time in which commercial hits don’t always equal sold out tours and vice versa.

During Timberlake’s Prudential Center performance in Newark on March 25, 2018 his first in the city of Newark, he pulled out all the stops. The opening act for the first leg of the tour includes up and coming American pop band The Shadowboxers, who recently signed with Justin’s artist development label, Villa 40. They released their debut EP “Apollo” on the same weekend of JT’s Garden State performance.

Justin Timberlake photo by Will Loschiavo at Prudential Center in Newark
Justin Timberlake photo by Will Loschiavo at Prudential Center in Newark

Like Timberlake (from Memphis), The Shadowboxers have their roots in Tennessee (Nashville). The band performs all six tracks off their EP as well as a cover of the Michael Jackson classic, “Remember the Time.” It is clear that Timberlake has mentored the band. The newcomers provide a near flawless performance. They easily garner new fans with their distinctive, soul-infused-pop sound.

Timberlakes new material sounds much better live

The time between when The Shadowboxers wrap their set to when Justin Timberlake hits the stage is not overextended nor obnoxious. The audience interaction is high when JT opens the show with “Filthy” and lasts throughout the entire duration of the two-hour concert. However, the show truly begins when Timberlake performs the third and fourth numbers, “Love Stoned” and “Sexy Back.” This appears to set a precedent for this tour: While the new material sounds much better live than on the album, a major positive, the highlights of the show are still notably all from previous records.

Justin Timberlake photo by Will Loschiavo at Prudential Center in Newark
Justin Timberlake photo by Will Loschiavo at Prudential Center in Newark

Make no mistake, if you are a long-time Justin Timberlake fan, this is the tour for you.

One-fourth of the way through, the party climaxes as Timberlake performs hit after hit beginning with the seventh number, “Señorita” which features Timberlake playing the piano, followed by a flashy dance performance of “Suit & Tie,” and standouts “My Love,” which has Timberlake playing instruments again on “Cry Me a River,” and the vocally impressive “Mirrors.”

“My Love” and “Cry Me a River” are two of the most solid performances of the tour. The latter of which packs heavy emotion paralleled by unique visuals. Moreover, the Man of the Woods World Tour features dazzling effects, lighting, and even holograms. One of the best facets of this tour is the extraordinary stage. There is not a bad seat in the house. Timberlake also makes an effort to spend an equal amount of time on all sectors of the stage. This is a one-of-a-kind production which makes full use of the venue, and this is certainly a set-up you would expect to see at a stadium tour performance.

The new material is subtly interwoven into the set before and after unforgettable renditions of pop classics ala “Until the End of Time,” which sounds beyond beautiful when performed acoustically, and “What Goes Around… Comes Around,” which brings back the anathematic energy into the room following a stripped-down set of covers around an actual campfire. It brings to life the “Man of the Woods” concept depicted in the album booklet and photos. This segment features Timberlake and his band the Tennessee Kids, reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, doing a medley of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill, “Come Together” by The Beatles and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver.

Timberlake closes out the show with “Can’t Stop the Feeling”
Justin Timberlake photo by Will Loschiavo at Prudential Center in Newark
Justin Timberlake photo by Will Loschiavo at Prudential Center in Newark

Towards the end of the set the show climaxes once more with powerhouse audience-infused numbers of “Summer Love” and “Rock Your Body,” which has Timberlake making his way into the audience. JT closes out the show appropriately with “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” his most recent hit prior to the release of his current album. It has charted higher than any of the MOTW singles. It is certified 4x platinum in the United States.

The Man of the Woods World Tour marks Justin Timberlake’s comeback. The pop music is highlighted by stellar vocals, impeccable choreography, hands-on instrument playing performances and a surplus of audience participation. Moreover, while it may still be too soon for any artist to be labeled the ‘King of Pop,’ it is clear at this point that Timberlake is definitely more than the ‘Prince of Pop’ as he has been referred to in the past.

Man of the Woods is set to run until January 29, 2019. Justin Timberlake will return to the tristate area this fall and winter. Upcoming local area dates are on October 22 and 24, 2018 at Madison Square Garden (New York City) and in Philly on December 17, 2018.