Reported from the heart of darkness
Eight million sweating preteens were packed into Kórinn Sports Hall in Kópavogur on Sunday, August 24, all for one purpose: Justin Timberlake. Also in attendance were those who were alive to have experienced him firsthand in his original incarnation as a tortured child artist on Disney’s ‘Mickey Mouse Club,’ and then for his subsequent reinvention as the only member of ‘N SYNC anyone cared about. Full disclosure: I belong to the latter group.
Though it was very dark and full of expensive yet paradoxically cheap beer, the night I finally saw Justin Timberlake perform live in concert was young and beautiful. It started at the unearthly hour of 19:30, but I guess it was probably a school night. Gusgus opened the show, and after having fought my way down the stairs and to the main floor, I could gaze in appreciation at the large screen alternately featuring Högni Egilsson’s and Daníel Ágúst’s faces as they sang in their angelic voices. Perhaps the highlight of their performance was Högni’s fantastic hair and beard combo, which, as I tore my eyes away from the screen, I could see was also entrancing everyone around me.
But this review isn’t about Gusgus, fantastic musicians though they are. It’s about Justin, whom I love. Next up was DJ Freestyle Steve, whom I hate. There is a time and a place for DJ Freestyle Steve, and that’s a Bar Mitzvah, or perhaps a middle school dance. In 2009. Freestyle Steve played that really annoying Alicia Keys song about New York and Rihanna’s song about yellow diamonds in the sky. That was about the point I stopped paying attention to any of the audio and went to buy myself the abovementioned way-too-expensive beer, which did nothing to soothe the pain imposed by DJ Freestyle Steve. The only reason I can think that DJ Freestyle Steve was booked to play instead of any of the good local DJs (of which there are many) is because they needed a palate cleanser in between the glory that is Justin and Gusgus. The two playing one right after the other would be like eating an entire gallon of Häagen-Dazs butter pecan and then a whole pound of really good cheesecake: too much of a good thing. You have to at least take a breather for a disappointing egg salad sandwich from a gas station to work up an appetite for good food again.
Thankfully, I didn’t have long to wait before Justin Timberlake and his band, The Tennessee Kids, came on. The stage was decked out to look like a speakeasy glamour stage, a la the musical ‘Chicago,’ with Justin as the crown jewel in the centre. He’s come a long way since the days of ramen hair and horrible tinted oval sunglasses. His suit was sharp, his sneakers a dazzling white, his hair styled impeccably under his hat. Not to sound obsessed, but he glided across the stage, a vision in top hat, white sneakers glowing and drawing the eye to his flawless footwork. He performed a few classics, like “Rock Your Body” and “Señorita,” which of course the crowd went wild for. I was personally thrilled at the stunning boudoir-infused rendition of the number “My Love.” Another of my favourites was “What Goes Around…”, the sequel to 2002’s critically acclaimed single “Cry Me A River” (which he also played). It started with Justin on the acoustic guitar and crooning softly to an unnamed woman who broke his heart (Britney?!!?!) for a good few minutes before getting to the sexy part where he belts his anguish, abandoning all acoustic pretences. A man in pain is really the only way good art can be created, so I guess we have to thank everyone who has caused that anguish, Britney (??) included.
The set was really long, including songs from his two new albums, which are objectively good but don’t pull at my heartstrings like his classics do. He performed the obligatory “Sexy Back,” which the eight-to-twelve-year-olds in the crowd went wild for. It was only a little bit awkward when they really got grooving to the lines “Baby I’m your slave, I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave,” and “Let me see what you’re twerkin’ with.” We can only assume (hope) he didn’t have eight-to-twelve-year-olds in mind when he wrote the song. I was really gunning for him to sing “Dick In A Box,” or even “Mother Lover,” but he ended up closing with “Mirrors,” a single off the new album.
In summary: Justin really brought it, and the concert was a total success, despite the tragedy that was DJ Freestyle Steve.