Review: Timberlake does it all with flash at United Center

Justin Timberlake has embraced adulthood with some flash and some grace.

Timberlake, who performed the first of two shows at the United Center Sunday night, took a break from music to do some acting. He's pretty good at that. He's also done some nice comedic turns on "Saturday Night Live" and with Jimmy Fallon. So, it might be safe to say he's an all-around entertainer, a title few people can claim now.

If Sunday's show was any indication, he's nailed the music and spectacle part. He and his Tennessee Kids band, which numbers 15 not counting the six dancers, made a two-hour show fly (unlike Timberlake's "20/20 Experience" double album, which is a bit lumbering). A honey combed backdrop served as video screen and lighting grid. Lasers danced over the crowd, most notably during "Only When I Walk Away." Talk about kicking it old school.

The show included a 10-minute intermission (Timberlake noted that "Chicago is a drinking town" to explain the break).Of the 12 songs performed before the break, four were some of his best known: "Rock Your Body," "Summer Love," Holy Grail" and "Cry Me a River." You had to be concerned about what would come next.

Rest easy. Five songs into the second half of the show, Timberlake pulled a jaw-dropping move. The stage was the usual assemblage of ramps for the dancers, lifts for the bands, Timberlake himself, plus a Fender Rhodes keyboard and white grand piano.

Once the "Let the Groove Get In" was established, the front part of the stage and the attached clear polymer steps rose on hydraulic lifts while Timberlake, four backup singers and the dancers kept up the action. Then, the whole assemblage moved toward the back of the floor while Timberlake sang "That Girl" and "Heartbreak Hotel." He is a Memphis boy after all. Bookended by "Hotel" and Michael Jackson's "Human nature" was "Not a Bad Thing," which is well described by its title. The whole apparatus returned to the A position (hey, Timberlake likes golf) while he performed "Cabaret" and "Take Back the Night."

Timberlake also added a few other old school touches. A snippet of Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie" preceded "Murder," which was followed by Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison."

Not surprisingly, Timberlake closed the show with "Suit & Tie," "SexyBack" and "Mirrors." Hearing "SexyBack" with a powerful live band, and Timberlake playing with tempo and false starts was unforgettable.

Timberlake performs 8 p.m. Monday at the United Center. Tickets available at TicketMaster.com.

ctc-arts@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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