The nail that sticks up gets pounded down, as does the audience for Justin Timberlake’s “Man of the Woods” tour.
The show (not a concert) streaks out of the gate onto a stage backlit with bright lights. The use of lasers was grand — they have been too little used for too long. Immediately the lack of audio clarity and the excess of volume overwhelm any sense of ‘song’ or ‘lyrics;’ this remains true for most of the first of two hours.
This show could better pace the crowd rather than continuing to drive the hammer. There have been concerts at PNC Arena, including Billy Joel, where the audio is clear, the stage is lit, and the crowd is managed by the performer throughout the affair, little of which happened on the sixth of January, 2019.
The Timberlake event (not a concert) comes to town with an imaginative, intriguing stage that runs the length of the arena floor, even surpassing the grandeur of his contemporary Britney Spears.
With the circus now a thing of the past, this must be the replacement. It is a three-ring amalgamation of acts with one red-shoe ringmaster. The dancers seem to be carefully chosen, i.e. they are only good enough to make JT look better. The choreography lacks cohesion. The costumes are almost entirely come-as-you-are.
As the featured attraction works the runway from goal line to goal line, the large band often remains at one end on a main stage mostly bleak and black after the opening light salvo. There is little chance to see or appreciate their musical efforts save for one excellent but brief drum feature.
Some horn players have attempted to shine by using brass with the bells painted white. At least you can locate them, but the lighting is muted to such a degree that the tuba player appears to be making music from a toilet bowl on his shoulder.
The setlist has changed dramatically from the 2018 beginnings of the tour, before vocal chord difficulties shut it down. Gone are the covers of classics, and also most of the variety of sound that JT seems to have striven for over the years.
There is still a campfire scene at the most distant of the three stage sections, but songs appropriate for that setting have been removed, such as “Come Together” and “Country Boy.”
If you enjoy a Timberlake song with feeling, like “Suit and Tie,” the rendition in the Woods sadly disappoints with just a snippet. If you love the lift from “Higher Higher” you’ll be deflated by this version, pounding down rather than lightly rising.
Justin Timberlake really wants this ‘Prince of Pop’ title, but he’s no Prince to this ‘Pop.’ Yes, I’m an ‘older’ guy. Yes, I like Classic Rock. Yes, I’m a misplaced male in a crowd that is eighty percent adoring female. Yet I paid mightily to see what Justin could do to make me care about his music.
The Prince of Pop? I saw Michael Jackson. The Man of the Woods effort (not a concert) takes the King’s song, dance, and theatrics to a whole new level. I would need a ten-foot dipstick to reach down to this tour’s level.
There are high points other than the stage itself and laser light elements. “Cry Me a River” wonderfully co-mingles song and staging. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” ends the night (not a concert) with the audience feeling the vibe that was sought the whole evening. If one just wants to see JT on a big stage, there is enough of that throughout to satisfy. Otherwise, like in this review, one has to wait a long time for the highlights.
Attended January 6, 2019, Raleigh, North Carolina