By Alex Cason
January 9, 2018
Charlotte’s very own “Jesus Saves” guy was out in front of Spectrum Center in full force on Tuesday night, offering concertgoers “free tickets to heaven” as they wedged themselves through metal detectors and wand scanners. Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods tour finally arrived in Charlotte on Tuesday night and the audiences’ reaction hinged on his every move, endlessly swaying and singing along to his expansive 21-song setlist.
Early and often, Timberlake tapped into the heart of the Queen City with a comfortable familiarity, mentioning Charlotte no less than 30 times throughout the show. He behaved like the entertaining cousin with all of the music skills who effortlessly energizes a backyard party. So charismatic that most guys want to hate him, but respect his endless array of performance skills — and women? Well, they don’t have to try so hard.
Soon after the DJ started the evening, Timberlake’s show continued the club vibe of the opener Francisco Yates, getting the crowd riled up for the inevitable slew of JT radio hits. Right from the start with the thumpy long intro to the song “Filthy,” the Charlotte crowd got on their feet and stayed there for all 21 songs. Timberlake danced his way around an elaborate set full of lights, trees, campfires, and small walkway bridges all constructed so JT could reach down to the fans. The intricate stage allowed him to cover most of the entire floor of the arena while a myriad of dancers and musicians flowed around him.
JT introduced us to some of his new material, noteably “Filthy,” “Midnight Summer Jam,” “Man of the Woods,” “Higher Higher,” “and Say Something,” singing most of these in the early part of the performance with “SexyBack” and “LoveStoned” sandwiched between keeping all fans— old and new— on their feet. He even stopped the show for a moment to have a shot with 12 members of his band — and the entire arena — before the song “Drink You Away.” At one point, the crew lit a campfire in the middle of the stage, where Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids played songs around it.
The show took a superstar turn as one famous last song followed another famous last song. He followed megahit “Cry Me a River” with megahit “Mirrors,” and the crowd was waving him goodbye while there were still ten songs in the set. After 16 years of putting together solo material, JT has enough songs in his repertoire to give a greatest hits performance for almost the entirety of his show. Not bad for a Mickey Mouse Club member who was once best known as the dancing kid from a boy band who dated Britney Spears.
The most striking part of Timberlake’s overall performance was his stage presence. He harnessed power from the audience during “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” rocking the crowd with hand claps in unison and keeping the spirits high. He commanded the audience while dancing and singing and praising Charlotte, which seemed to buzz the audience on every take. He had them dancing, singing, swaying, phone-illuminating, and in his words soon-to-be “baby-making.” The Charlotte crowd was feeling the JT experience in the sort of way that would make the Jesus Saves guy smile with uninhibited exuberance and relentless flair.
Check out the remaining 2019 tour dates for Justin Timberlake.