Justin Timberlake: Birmingham NIA : Monday 1 December

We luv Justin an fink he iz buff and da coolest... so does everyone else in the Midlands

Times are hard in Gotham. The Caped Crusader has been caught by the rap, and Comissioner Gordon, his former friend, is trawling through the Batcave searching for evidence of kiddie porn while his fickle public are quickly forgetting how justice is based on being innocent until proven guilty. Whatever, he hasn’t made a decent record in aeons (except ‘Butterflies’, but we digress). Meanwhile, Catwoman has managed to slink her way to the top. She’s ravishing, at the peak of her powers, and has the world in her grasp. Nobody can work out whether she’s good or pure evil, but what everybody agrees on is that she’s beautiful, no matter what you say. And she’s already started to charm our Boy Wonder. He’s outgrown Batman in the last year, but the cracks are starting to show. The pressure of banging his way round the world is beginning to show, and he’s just done a McDonalds advert. It’s the cliffhanger to end them all. There’s a bloody great shark right ahead of you, [a]Justin Timberlake[/a]! Don’t jump!

‘I’m Loving It’ was end of part one in the [a]Justin Timberlake[/a] story, and here, in Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena (it’s where they used to film Gladiators, you know) we await the beginning of part two. “Hello Birming-Hem!” he grins. [a]Justin Timberlake[/a] always grins, apart from the times when he’s looking rugged. And after practically wasting ‘Rock Your Body’ at the start, he requests, rather rhetorically “is there anybody out there tonight who would be my girlfriend?!” The boys scream in the affirmative just as much as the girls. Those are the kind of special powers this kid possesses.

We should point out here that this is exactly the same show as Justin’s dragged round the country once before. Not that that especially matters. Where [a]Madonna[/a]’s stadium shows these days involve high art conceptual ‘pieces’, and [a]Kylie Minogue[/a]’s reinvented the sci-fi extravaganza, [a]Justin Timberlake[/a]’s skill has always been to make these enormodomes feel just like the sweaty bar-room in the ‘Senorita’ video. So while there’s all the hallmarks of stadium pop (costume changes, pyro, gigantic cranes) the impetus is always on the performance, and it’s [a]Justin Timberlake[/a]’s credit that he never stops looking like he’s, ahem, loving it.

And the music too, can easily match the package; the drenched, industrial reading of ‘Cry Me A River’ is as breathtaking as former *NSync ballad ‘Gone’. And ‘Like I Love You’ the greatest pop song of the last decade. In fact, it’s so good that it would be far too easy to say that he’s ballsed it all up by recording a rubbish song and emblazoning all his merchandise with the dreaded golden arches. Because [a]Justin Timberlake[/a] is better than that. But if the difference between a true artist and an anything-for-money showpony is the ability to resist that kind of temptation, then maybe Justin’s saving us all more heartache in the longrun. For longer than anyone expected, he’s trod the pop/cred tightrope with more nous than anybody since [a]Madonna[/a], and nobody can take that away. But still, you think, the best thing he could possibly do now would be to go back to *NSync.

Dan Martin