Justin Timberlake's "Man of the Woods" Performance of a Lifetime


On Wednesday night at Houston’s Toyota Center, Justin Timberlake a.k.a. the “Man of the Woods,” put on the performance-of-a-lifetime for a stadium packed with fans of all ages. Though touring in promotion of his latest album “Man of the Woods,” released earlier this year, Timberlake’s performance included hits from his entire repertoire of successful albums and singles. Whether it was kids of the ‘90s all grown up, returning to see their favorite *NSYNC member for nostalgia’s sake, kids of the ‘00s anxiously awaiting the return of their favorite Y2K solo-artist, or anyone thereafter that latched on to the wildly successful album, “The 20/20 Experience” released five years back, Timberlake made sure to satisfy every fan’s appetite. Even beyond the pure listening experience, this tour’s production and stage set up was clearly designed to make every fan feel included in the two-hour long performance. Granted, for those willing to dish out the big bucks, the VIP section in the center of the arena – which featured a bar on both sides of the center-stadium stage piece – was clearly the most favorable location to be.

After a brief set from supporting act, The Shadowboxers, Timberlake emerged from a beam of light emitted back stage and kicked off the evening with one of his most recent successes, “Filthy,” off the new album. In response to such a commanding opening, seated fans were unable to stair in their chairs for long. The energy continued to rise as Timberlake performed tracks like “SexyBack,” “Suit & Tie,” “My Love,” alongside newer releases like “Man of the Woods” and “Higher and Higher,” eventually transitioning to “Cry Me a River” back-to-back with “Mirrors.” Paying homage to Houston’s infamous rap duo, UGK, Timberlake even wove in vocal samples of their hit song “Big Pimpin’ with Jay-Z during the performance of “My Love.” A few songs later, the stadium went dark, allowing Timberlake to complete a brief wardrobe change and re-emerge for what many assumed was an encore - though it turned out that the brief exit was more of an “intermission,” as the night was merely half over at this time.

Draped in a flannel and “Santa Fe Strong” shirt to honor the victims of the recent shooting in Houston’s neighboring town of Santa Fe, Timberlake turned this second portion of the evening into a lengthy and somber interlude before the high-energy close of the two-hour set. Literally sitting around a campfire at the portion of the arena opposite the main stage, Timberlake, wielding an acoustic guitar, and the majority of his full-band began to play what was essentially an “unplugged” set of “campfire songs.” During this time, the band was introduced and covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and The Beatles’ “Come Together,” among others, were performed. The band even utilized the opportunity to take a shot in celebration of the evenings epic performance.

Thereafter, the final, and third installment of the evening commenced and gifted fans with performances of “What Goes Around…Comes Around,” “Say Something,” “Summer Love,” “Rock Your Body,” and ultimately “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” During “Rock Your Body,” Timberlake seized an opportunity to give the VIP fans what they paid for and stepped off stage to join them on what quickly lit up as a 70s inspired dance floor under their feet. Though brief, his time on the dance floor was likely worth the price fans paid to be there. Two full hours after the start of the performance, at 11:00PM on the dot, the show finally concluded as Timberlake yet again honored the recent victims at Santa Fe high school by dedicating the performance to all those that have lost their lives. This emotional, exciting, and inspiring evening was one for the books, and Houston fans are lucky enough to have one more shot to catch the performance on Friday night before Timberlake takes his show up to Dallas for another double-header.

Coverage by Marshall Heins II

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