“Even superstars get sick.”
This was the response given to an inquiry about Justin Timberlake’s canceled show at Madison Square Garden this past Wednesday. It was to be the first of two back-to-back concerts scheduled before Timberlake capped his week on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
While Wednesday’s show was postponed to Friday, Timberlake took the stage Thursday evening still ailing from said cold.
If he was sick, Timberlake refused to show it. With his band, The Tennessee Kids, at his back, Timberlake crooned through his sweet and smoky rendition of the opener “Pusher Lover Girl” and he did not stop for the rest of the night. The performance seamlessly
converged R&B, soul and pop into a two-hour conglomeration of genres.
The set for the concert’s first act jumped from album to album, showcasing his locking skills and vocal finesse through elaborate choreography and instances of limpid falsetto. Everything from his discography was in play.
Multiple tracks, notably “Don’t Hold the Wall,” were performed from his most recent two albums and part one of the concert concluded with Timberlake’s original solo hit from 2003’s “Justified,” “Cry Me a River.”
Part two was another animal entirely. Much heavier on Timberlake’s new material, the second act opened after a 10-minute intermission with a remarkable array of lasers accompanying “Only When I Walk Away.”
Timberlake was never short on visuals, including an enormous moving stage that floated over the crowd and met with a separate, smaller stage in the middle of the audience.
But, apart from the impressive aesthetics, this pop star shines best when he leaves the complexities to his music. Such was the case for “What Goes Around Comes Around,” which began in the swarming electric melodies of the original but concluded in a primitive rendition, with Timberlake simply singing and strumming a guitar.
Though most of part two focused on “The 20/20 Experience,” Timberlake did not forget his roots. Multiple covers were performed throughout the night paying homage to artists who have influenced Timberlake, ranging in scope and sound.
Michael Jackson was invoked with a cover of “Human Nature” and Timberlake touched on his Memphis connections with the melodic strings of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel.” Timberlake even revisited his boy-band days with Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.”
Timberlake’s powerful build-up to his exit included quite the trifecta of “Suit & Tie,” “SexyBack” and “Mirrors.” Each opened and closed with triumphant flair.
As he left the stage amid the deafening cries of his fans, Timberlake’s class and faultless cool were as apparent as when he walked on. The pop star has pushed himself above the fray and deserves the pedestal he has been placed on.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 25 print edition. Adam Kargenian is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.