I first got into Justin Timberlake when I got into Nsync back in 2001, and that was sparked by seeing the Nsync IMAX concert film “Bigger Than Live”. So when I heard that Mr JT was coming to Aotearoa,… um… I was kind of indifferent to it all. I couldn’t be bothered to go and see him live.
But then on Thursday, on the eve of his first show, I was at the pub with my old NZmusic.com-ettes, Joanna, Martina and Heather, and they were like, “Why aren’t you going!?” Good seats were still available, so I bought a ticket ($140?!) and got my arse along to Vector Arena for the last of his three Auckland shows.
As I entered the arena, Nine Inch Nails’ family fun-time singalong tune “Closer” was playing. “I wanna fuck you like an animal,” Trent Reznor snarled. This is not the result of someone’s iPod being put on random. Justin wanted us to hear it.
I was pleased to discover that I had an aisle seat, one row from the front and about two-thirds of the way down from the stage. Next to me were two girls working their way through eight cups of bourbon and Coke.
So, there was a whole lot of smoke and lights and the band started playing familiar fragments, and the audience screamed and cheered, and finally the bits and pieces suddenly exploded into “FutureSex / LoveSound”. A shadowy figure on stage was revealed to be Justin and it was really awesome. “You know what you want, and that makes you just like me,” he sang, and it was true.
Over in L91, I was dancing my arse off, and back on stage Justin was running through the best bits off his two albums. “Like I Love You”, “What Goes Around”, “My Love”.
Justin then had a quiet word with the audience. He loves Noo Zealand. Scream. It’s better than Australia. Scream. Noo Zealanders are so crazy, he wants some of what we’re smoking. Scream. In fact, he loves Noo Zealand so much, he might even move here. Screeeeam.
Which leads us to the Kaipara Bait ‘n’ Switch. I heard that on Friday Justin went ballooning over Helensville. It was a nice sunny day that day. A few years ago, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers also visited the Kaipara area on a nice sunny day and was so impressed he bought a house there. But he soon discovered that nice sunny days are an anomaly and it’s usually a nice rainy day there. So, Justin, be warned.
Two girls in the row in front me told me there was a spare seat next to them, so I moved down into the front row. Nice one. But I discovered that the bourbon and Coke girls had spilt some on the floor, getting my hoodie all wet. Ugh. But it’s OK cos Justin was there.
I can only conclude that Justin Timberlake is a huge nerd. I mean, you don’t get to be a good singer, dancer, co-songwriter and entertainer without spending hours and hours and years and years practising. It’s kind of the Madonna template (she is a huge nerd too) – you just work your arse off at the art of being a pop star. And this also involves being too busy working to flash your cooter all over town.
There was a no-camera rule, but everyone these days has cameraphones, so the audience was dotted with the glowing screens of people holding up their cellphones, taking photos and jittery 30-second movie clips to stick on YouTube.
The question is, does Justin have enough songs to fill out a two-hour show? Well, not quite. There were a few dull patches. I could have done without “Sexy Ladies”. But the worst bit was the horrible ballad “Losing My Way”, which is about a guy called Bob (who has a job) and smokes the P. A mini gospel choir showed up for that one.
But the best was saved for last, with the bombastic “SexyBack” finale. It was all smoke and lights and it was like a funky sexy alien mothership was landing (hey…). I’m not sure, but I think it’s possible that Justin literally brought sexy back.
After that he came back on stage and just walked around, while the audience screamed at him. You’d have to be really well adjusted to be able to elicit that sort of reaction and be able to both accept it and not let it mess with your ego. Bags not.
He sat down at a piano and did one more song (during which heaps of lame-arses went home), before taking a final bow and disappearing into the stage. The audience was seen out with The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”. (Another mid-’90s tune. Hmm…)
As I left, reeking of someone else’s bourbon and Coke, I had strangely mixed emotions about my first stadium extravaganza. I’d just seen Justin Timberlake live and it was a great experience, but I think I’ve had better times at the King’s Arms.