If there’s one succinct descriptor for Justin Timberlake, it’s “class act.” During his headlining turn Saturday night at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas—the finale of the day’s Formula 1 racing festivities—the 36-year-old performer rocked a bowler hat, untucked plaid button-down and black blazer with matching, slightly rolled up slacks (all while bustin’ moves worthy of MJ), and his music transcendenced past mere pop into the realm of sophisticated songwriting.
“Well, I …” he began during his first talking break after kicking off the show with the laser-strewn “Only When I Walk Away,” some gospel-line-gusto on “Drink You Away” and surefire smoothness of “Suit & Tie” followed by snippets of ‘FutureSex/LoveSound” and a fierce falsetto on “My Love.” That was all he managed to utter before a front-row fan interrupted him with a piercing cry of “I love you!” Like the true gent he is, Timberlake stopped mid-sentence and replied candidly, “I love you, too.”
Backed by an incredibly dynamic full band, the Tennessee Kids, he spent the next hour switching seamlessly between sex-driven swagger (“LoveStoned,” “Cry Me A River,” “Rock Your Body”) and beautifully sung ballads bolstered by spot-on support singers and a hyped-up horn ensemble. The most striking cuts among the ballads included “Until the End of Time”—replete with JT crooning behind an upright piano and dedications to Houston and Las Vegas—and “What Goes Around … Comes Around,” bookended by snippets of Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” an elegantly subtle tribute to Sunday’s headlining act.
While all this showed massive maturation since his NSYNC days and whetted appetites for future music (Timberlake hasn’t released an album since 2013’s The 20/20 Experience and didn’t hint at anything upcoming this night), the singer still tapped into his bad-boy side.
“Alright, no more of that sappy-ass shit—let’s go,” he said, before launching into the one-two punch closing pick-me-ups “SexyBack” and “Mirrors.”
Before leaving the stage, Timberlake made sure his fans’ egos were as well-fed as his own: “Every time I come back here, it just confirms what we already know: they just do it bigger in Texas.”
Review and all photos by David Brendan Hall