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Justin Timberlake delivers arena show masterclass in London

By Aaron Tamazou

'Legends of the Summer' Tour

Justin Timberlake performed the first of two shows at London’s O2 Arena last night (April 1) as part of his ‘The 20/20 Experience World Tour’ . It was the 33-year-old’s first solo headlining show in London – a city he hailed as his “home away from home” – since his ten-million-selling album FutureSex/Lovesounds and subsequent tour of 2007.

JT and his eleven-piece band The Tennessee Kids performed a set of 30 songs filled with soaring vocals, impressive choreography and masterful showmanship. The singer resisted the temptation to overload his set with too many new songs from the pair of albums he released in 2013 – and the audience went wild for older hits like Rock Your Body and My Love, which were weaved between tracks from all four of his albums.

Clad in a slick tuxedo and penny loafers, Timberlake sang with his trademark falsetto and showed off the swish dance moves he’s used in recent videos like Suit & Tie – as well as throwback moves from 2002’s Like I Love You.

When performing not so ultra-choreographed hits, he displayed equal proficiency with his dazzling chrome microphone, swinging it about the stage like a Strictly Come Dancing partner with concerning (*cough* arousing) passion. When it came to 2003 hit Señorita, Timberlake raised his mic to the audience for that guys/ladies sing-off, and the deafening chants of “Can I leave with you?” were sung back at him with desperate sincerity.

The first half of the show was closed by the imperious ballad Cry Me A River, which drew the crowd’s most excitable reaction of the night and swelled into a gospel-rock crescendo. After a brief interval Timberlake returned with a new – but equally swish – outfit for a rather looser second half.

He strapped on an acoustic guitar when he played Drink You Away, a new track with a bluesy bite, and not long after – during Let the Groove Get In – the platform he was stood on rose and edged forwards over the crowd for some prized photo-ops.

His spell in the centre of The O2 saw him cover Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, during which he pointed to the sky and urged the crowd to sing along so loud that the late King of Pop might almost have heard. The melancholy cover segued into a slow-paced guitar rendition of What Goes Around… Comes Around, which later transformed into the more familiar R&B version, picking up the pace again leading into an encore.

The finale was provided by last year’s number one single Mirrors. The crowd stood and sang in unison to this insta-classic R&B ballad, rounding off an epic master-class in arena performance.

Justin Timberlake performs a second night at London’s O2 Arena tonight (April 2) before touring the rest of Europe.