Justified And Stripped Preview: Timberlake Talks Tour

Singer will be throwing in a few 'NSYNC numbers while on the road.

Hoards of teenage girls are racing to Phoenix’s America West Arena for Wednesday’s Justified and Stripped Tour kickoff, but if Justin Timberlake’s recent European outing is any indication, they are not the only ones.

Just before taking a London stage two weeks ago, the ‘NSYNC star estimated the average concertgoer on the trek was 26 or 27, and he said he’d seen as many adult couples in his audience as mothers and daughters.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Timberlake said. “It’s nice to have so many different cultures and so many different ages and generations in one room.”

Timberlake’s portion of Justified and Stripped will be much like his European tour, only trimmed down about 15 minutes to just over an hour to allow more time for Christina Aguilera, who will perform first (see “Justin Timberlake/ Christina Aguilera Tour Dates Announced” ). His show will include mostly Justified tracks with a few ‘NSYNC favorites.

“I just think it’s about connecting with the crowd and making them feel like it’s OK to, you know, shake their ass,” the singer said. “From what I’ve noticed over here doing shows is they’re already ready to have a good time, and I think if you come to a show with that frame of mind, it’s not about me, because I truly feel that anybody who’s sitting in the crowd could be standing onstage with me. I feel like we’re all onstage, you know.”

He may feel that way, but the truth is Timberlake’s co-headlining tour with Aguilera marks the first time he’ll have to carry a show alone, both visually and vocally. He was ready for the spotlight, but his voice was in need of some training. At ‘NSYNC shows, Justin and JC Chasez traded lead vocals, giving each other a chance to rest, but he’s without that benefit this time.

“In the rehearsals it took me just getting over that and really just getting down to it and singing and really feeling what’s happening [sonically] onstage,” he said.

It helps that Timberlake has spent months preparing, both physically and mentally.

“I train before the tour and while I’m on tour as well, just doing circuit training to make sure my health is still up so I’m not winded too much,” Justin said. “Mentally … I’m pretty quiet when I’m offstage, especially on a show day. But on days off, I like to be outside. I’ll probably go play golf … because it’s so easy to feel like you’re just a machine when you’re in venues every day.”

Timberlake also has special backstage requests that help him gear up for shows.

“Throat Coat [is] probably the best singer’s tea you can have,” he said. “And I request licorice root, which looks literally like a twig of tree bark. … Other than that, water and Gatorade, honey for the tea. I’m pretty low-maintenance.”

Onstage, things aren’t as simple. Timberlake will perform with a 14-piece band — including four backup singers, three horn players and a DJ — and eight dancers, who will take the stage in different pairings throughout the show (see “Justin Promises Spectacle, Special Guests On Christina Tour” ).

Of course, Justin will also be doing some dancing of his own. “It’s a release,” he said of his Michael Jackson-inspired moves. “I never really took formal dance training. I think it’s something I kind of picked up from going to clubs and watching MTV, to be honest. It’s really just about mimicking and now it’s turned into, you know, just whatever feels comfortable for me.”

The most exciting element of the tour for Timberlake will be watching his former “Mickey Mouse Club” co-star Aguilera, whose voice he praised.

Justin said the two wanted to do a co-headlining tour because it was innovative, and he scoffed at the suggestion it has anything do with getting back at his ex, Britney Spears.

“I would never do anything just for spite,” he said. “I’m just not that type of person. And my decisions for my career have nothing to do with my personal life.”