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Justin Timberlake Touts Suits, Ties and Tequila at Newly Renovated Forum: Concert Review

Justin Timberlake Performing at The forum - P 2014
Michael Chase Gordon
Justin Timberlake at The Forum

The Bottom Line

The singer delivers a 30-plus-song set that sounds as good as he looks.

Venue

The Forum
Los Angeles
(Monday, Jan. 20)

Justin Timberlake knows he looks good. Onstage, the pop star and actor moves with the sort of confidence that comes only from this knowledge, where it manifests not as ego but as absolute self-assurance. On Monday evening, Timberlake brought his world tour, dubbed The 20/20 Experience, to the newly renovated Forum in Inglewood to offer a three-hour performance that boasted glossy swagger and palpable fun. Timberlake, clearly a born entertainer, gleefully danced and jumped around the stage, often grinning as if to say, "I'm having the best time in the world, and I look amazing doing it."

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A few songs into the set, Timberlake paused to offer a quick rendition of Tupac's "California Love," crooning the line, "California knows how to party," along with the audience. "What's up, Inglewood?" the singer shouted. "Inglewood always up to no good, yeah, yeah!" He laughed, then added, "You can only do that at The Forum. That sure doesn't work at the Staples Center."

Timberlake's set was divided by an actual intermission, splitting the show into several distinct sets (which totaled over 30 songs). The first half revealed his skilled band, the Tennessee Kids, which were comprised of 11 musicians and four backup singers, as well as numerous dancers. The stage production embraced a vintage sheen, one that has become familiar in Timberlake's repertoire since the release of last year's double album The 20/20 Experience -- everyone in classic suits, spiffed up and seemingly ready to make an appearance on an old episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

The second act, following the ten-minute interlude ("Did you guys enjoy the intermission?" the singer asked. "I'm 32, so, you know, I need a break!"), went more contemporary pop, covering the venue in neon lasers as Timberlake performed "Only When I Walk Away."

Later the front of the stage detached and rose over the crowd, transporting Timberlake and his dancers over the venue to the back of the room. These days this is integral in any major tour -- the existence of a secondary "B-Stage" that allows the nosebleed seats better access to the performer -- and it mostly worked for Timberlake. Of course his version of the B-Stage wasn't complete without major branding for his tequila line, Sauza 901. The back of the venue floor was transformed into a VIP 901 bar, connected to the lofty moving stage with a set of stairs. Timberlake employed the bar as part of his set, dancing over the crowd members and even going so far as to take a shot of the tequila.

It should come as no surprise that Timberlake recently announced this tequila line, a partnership with Sauza, which is produced by Beam Inc. The singer has technically had the tequila since 2009, but is re-launching this month in light of this new collaboration. The tequila arrives in stores in the coming weeks, which makes its strong visual presence on his tour -- and as an actual part of the show -- notable.

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When he wasn't shilling for his tequila, Timberlake paid homage to several artists who have clearly influenced his stylistic aesthetic. The singer covered Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel," Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison," which he interwove with his recent track "Murder." For his boisterous finale, Timberlake merged "Suit & Tie," "Sexy Back" and "Mirrors," a smash conclusion to an epic set. The singer somehow never lost momentum -- he may have, in fact, gained it -- and seemed more and more gleeful as the night went on. The sensibility was infectious for the crowd, too. "I didn't know if you were gonna go Hollywood on me, but this is a real f------ crowd," the singer commented at one point. "This is the real L.A. out here."

Timberlake, who is up for seven Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 26, knows he's got the looks (to wit: massive images of himself are displayed on giant video screens throughout the show) but he's also skilled at delivering something that isn't all surface. There's nothing better than watching a performer who is genuinely having fun -- and that's perhaps why Timberlake is so striking.

Set List:

Pusher Love Girl
Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)
Don't Hold the Wall
FutureSex/LoveSound
Like I Love You
My Love
TKO
Strawberry Bubblegum
Summer Love
LoveStoned
Until the End of Time
Holy Grail / Cry Me a River

Intermission

Only When I Walk Away
True Blood
Drink You Away
Tunnel Vision
Señorita
Let the Groove Get In
That Girl
Heartbreak Hotel
Not a Bad Thing
Human Nature
What Goes Around ... Comes Around
Cabaret
Take Back the Night
Murder / Poison
Suit & Tie
Sexy Back
Mirrors

Twitter: @emilyzemler

Michael Chase Gordon