Strut, Don’t Walk, to Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids on Saturday

Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids

The number of moving parts in Justin Timberlake’s stage show is so overwhelming that you can have a grand time watching the concert film Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids with the sound muted, marveling at the expressionistic assembly of moving glass catwalks and geodesic screens that fragment and distort pointillist projections of faces. In last year’s document of the final nights of Timberlake’s 2015 world tour—making its US theatrical premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera festival on Saturday after going straight to Netflix last fall—director Jonathan Demme pays particular attention to the lighting, especially the dazzling laser show for “When I Walk Away.” But of course, the music is the star, and the director’s emphasis on the backing band and dancers helps to clarify the artist’s fusion of classic R&B and modern electronic production in a way JT’s studio albums don’t always manage. The 20/20 Experience material sounds especially realized in a live setting, with the organic instrumentation unshackled from glossy production to fully anchor the songs.

Still, Timberlake is never lost in the bricolage of his own stardom; for all the humanizing, intimate images shown in the introduction and postscript of the artist preparing for the concert, on-stage he dominates attention with his buoyant dancing and infectious personality. Amid the colossal spectacle of the show, the most memorable image comes during closer “Mirrors,” when the crowd sings the lyrics so loudly that the star grasps his head in total ecstasy, eyes visibly brimming with tears. As in Demme’s seminal document of Talking Heads, Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids is a process-driven account of the way that an artist’s vision is only actualized through collaboration, shown not only in the ample footage of Timberlake’s musicians and dancers but in the oddly moving coda that shows just how many people it takes to even set up one of his shows.


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