NEW YORK — “Did you guys watch the VMAs?” Justin Timberlake asked the crowd at the Roseland Ballroom early Friday morning (September 1). “It was cool. It ain’t as hot as this, though.”
Of all the post-VMA afterparties and events, JT’s club gig just might have been the place to be. After all, the running theme at the awards show was about bringing sexy back — and Justin brought enough to spare, even while wearing a vest, hat and tie.(Check out photos from Justin’s performance at Roseland.)
“We’re partying now!” he rallied the audience, which included Diddy with his full entourage, all four Black Eyed Peas and a lost Mario Vazquez, who was trying to find the VIP section. And the celebs weren’t only in the crowd — they were also jumping up onstage, helping Timberlake re-create many cuts from his forthcoming FutureSex/LoveSounds album as well as jamming on a few of their own.
After warming up Roseland — also the site of Justin’s post-VMA gig three years earlier — with a rock-opera-like version of “Cry Me a River” and a heavier take on “Señorita,” he announced that he had handpicked a few new tracks that he “thought New York would like,” starting with “Damn Girl.” Halfway through the song, Will.I.Am jumped out to rap the middle section, to cheers and applause. Proud of the reception, Justin said, “Nobody does it better than New York, and that’s honest, because I’m from the South. I like it Southern.”
As if to prove his point, Timberlake’s next guest came from the ATL — T.I., like Will.I.Am, came out mid-song, while Justin beatboxed to his raps on a quirky, funky version of “My Love.” “I told you that I had some surprises,” Timberlake said, as he slid behind the keyboards to play backup to one of T.I.’s own songs.
Playing guitar was next. “Let’s see if you can spot this one,” he teased as he turned “Like I Love You” into more of a ’70s soul song, before reverting to its Justified arrangement and, later, into the riff from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” “I’m just getting warmed up!” he laughed.
But since the new songs were the order of the night, he promptly reverted back to the FutureSex playlist, with a slow jam of “Until the End of Time” and an extended version of “LoveStoned/ I Think She Knows.” While “LoveStoned” started as a club song — with Timberlake inserting the lyric “She’s got the New York ass” to get the crowd cheering — it morphed into emo prom night, with the instruments fading out to one guitar strumming and Justin’s delivery evolving from cocksure lower registers to yearning falsetto, so much so that one drunken couple cleared part of the floor to dance so tenderly that it seemed like a movie moment.
The spell was broken for a moment when the crowd started shouting so boisterously that Justin said, “I can’t hear a f—ing thing you’re saying, but I love you, too.” But he quickly returned to the romance by playing the bittersweet “What Goes Around Comes Around.”
“I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to do it right now,” he then announced, as his former ’NSYNC bandmate JC Chasez walked out onstage. He said they’ve been working in the studio together were about to share one of the songs-in-progress (see “Justin Opens Up About Britney, Lance, JC And The Media” ). “Let’s just do it.” As Justin played keyboards and then danced, JC sang a song that exhorted, “If you play with fire, you get burned.” The two hugged before JC exited the stage.
Next up were DJ Paul and Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia to join Justin on “Chop Me Up” — they rapped, he beatboxed and then Timbaland jumped onstage, teasing the crowd, “You are not loud enough!” As Three 6 Mafia left, Justin and Tim played a bit of Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” with Nelly’s parts represented by a track vocal, though Justin and the girls in the crowd helped flesh it out. As Justin beatboxed the breakdown, they slipped into a little bit of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.”
“I think we’re done,” Timberlake said, as the clock struck 3 a.m.
“Hell, no!” Timbaland contradicted. “This is New York! We can’t be done.”
And so they continued on — morphing Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” into a version of “SexyBack” done in a go-go version (a percussive ’80s style that centered on Washington, D.C., if anyone remembers E.U.’s #1 hit “Da Butt”) that slowed the song down to a sluggish, sleepy level.
Yep, sexy had turned to sleepy, but they’ll bring it back another night.