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I really wasn’t expecting great things. People and magazines had raved about Justin Timberlake’s tour, but I had his album and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I assumed that all the fuss was created by his mass following, and teenage girl magazines wanting higher sales. The only real reason I bought the tickets was to help out a friend, who had bought them in a set of four from eBay and needed to get two off his hands.
As the day approached, I have to say I started to feel a little bit excited. After all, the guy is pretty famous. And rich. And more than a little good-looking. As I told more and more people I was planning on going to the tour, I heard better and better things about others’ experiences, and started to approach the day with a slightly more open mind.
Our tickets were purchased on eBay at £120 for four, so £30 per ticket. If bought directly, at our particular venue prices were from £25 to £35. This is about average price for concerts featuring a well-known star. I attended the second of three shows at the Manchester Evening News Arena, which accommodates 15 000 people. The venue was clean, well lit and well staffed (even if the staff did have to wear practically luminous yellow blazers, poor souls). Also the entire seating area was non-smoking, which in my opinion is a bonus. I was quite concerned that if there was a fire we would all die, but I am sure that regulations were followed, and also we were pretty near an exit so if I ran I could have got out quickly… and we all know that’s all that matters! Other cities where Justin toured included Birmingham, Sheffield, London, Dublin and Belfast.
The arena was pretty easy to find (although we were accompanied by a native ManCUNian - thanks guys!) and upon arrival we were greeted with hordes of screaming teenage girls, wearing miniskirts and trillbies, each clasping a lovingly hand crafted ‘I love Justin’ or ‘Marry Me’ sign to their chests. I would like to point out at this time that whilst I am in fact a teenage girl, I wasn’t clasping a sign, nor was I screaming (yet). Programmes were on sale for an extortionate £10, and featured merely page after page of red and black pictures of JT (as he will heretofore be known) himself.
So, only a short queue and the frisking for bottles of a member of our party later, and we were in! The way to our seats was signposted clearly, and although queues at the high-price food stalls were enormous, there were loads of toilets, which were clean and fully stocked, so we didn’t even have to queue.
Now, on to the actual concert. We got started about twenty minutes late with the warm-up act, consisting of DJ Mark Ronson, who has worked recently with Sean Paul, and Dizzee Rascal, whose debut album won him the Mercury Music Award. they worked well as a team, playing the latest in R ‘n’ B, although their stop-start style did get a little annoying after a while. They played for thirty minutes, and this was followed by a break of about twenty minutes. When Dizzee and Mark left the stage, the crowd was warmed up and definitely ready – the atmosphere was amazing, but the break after detracted from this quite a lot (we bought ice-cream, but it cost two quid for a tiny tub and tasted rubbish). No fear though, as soon as the lights went out a second time, the energy in the room was raw. You could almost smell the overactive hormones.
JT opened with his well-known dancefloor-filler, Rock Your Body. Along with his highly competent dancers, he danced away like there was no tomorrow, before slipping into his next track, Right For Me. Maybe it was just me, but I was sure that for just these two tracks, he mimed. The routines were incredible and it didn’t seem like he would be able to maintain this routine whilst still singing. However, by the time JT launched into his next two songs, hits from his N*Sync days, it was apparent he was singing live. ‘Gone’ and ‘Girlfriend’ were performed seemingly effortlessly yet with incredible talent.
It was here that JT’s stage presence really began to manifest itself. This man OWNED that stage, and he owned the audience. In fact, I’m pretty sure several of the more unbalanced members of the crowd would have killed their own mothers had he asked them, which I have to say worries me slightly: he is after all, just another person – extremely talented, but a person nonetheless.
As JT went on to perform ‘Senorita’ (lots of audience participation here) and ‘Still On My Brain’ (lighter waving a-plenty), his voice didn’t waver. The talent was still apparent and the immense enjoyment he had from performing was clear. Enthusiasm is catching, and it was not long before I was singing along, dancing, and once, I even screamed, which made me feel really bad for mocking those girls at the beginning! Well, I’ll live and learn…!
Looking back, I think it was between ‘Nothing Else’ and ‘Cry Me A River’ that I started to need the toilet. Needless to say, I ignored this urge and merely grimaced my way through the rest of the concert! As JT launched into ‘Let’s Take A Ride, he was stood on a metal platform (I’m pretty sure he had a safety harness, which if you ask me isn’t too hardcore, it wasn’t really that high!) which moved upwards then swung slowly round over the crow. Being high up but fairly near the back, we couldn’t really see him much closer, but the girls (the crowd was mostly female, as I have said) near wherever the platform was immediately increased in volume by about 50 decibels, which I have to say I hadn’t thought was possible at all! Still on the platform, there came a ‘beatbox interlude’, which I think was supposed to sound fresh and original but was in fact a little rehearsed and too smooth to be spontaneous.
‘Last Night’, ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ and ‘Take Me Now’ involved more of the same – upbeat numbers with audience participation and amazing atmosphere. Throughout JT kept the crowd amused and entertained, which is after all what we pay for. Breath-taking dance routines, catchy songs and at times divine vocal performances all combined to produce a show fully deserving of the rave reviews it gets. I do wish that there hadn’t been the usual cheesy lines: ‘this crowd is waaay better than last night, in fact I think it could be the best so far!’ but this is a pop concert, there’s nothing else really to be expected!
‘Take It From Here’, only the second slow number, was performed superbly, again vocal talent was more than apparent. After this came acknowledgements for the band, who had indeed been excellent, of particular note was a guy with a trumpet (a trumpetist? A trumpeter?) who was fantastic. Then was a five minute interlude where the dancers got their thirty seconds of fame each. They performed stunning routines, well-executed with agility and skill, whilst Justin (presumably) prepared for his final number, ‘Like I love You’, which involved dancing on a piano, fireworks, and the best dancing yet.
On the way out, merchandise was still on sale – in the region of £15 to £22 for a T-shirt, which isn’t amazing value for money but it could be worse. There was also counterfeit merchandise for sale outside – posters aren’t too bad but T-shirt sellers will throw any size T-shirt at you and snatch your money without so much as an ‘enjoy the show?’
Overall, I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who likes Justin’s music. He is obviously a talented man, both musically and as far as dancing is concerned, and throughout the show the atmosphere was incredible, and the performances stunning.
As a friend most aptly put it on the way out: ‘Well, it beat the hell out of Westlife’s show.’