To those South by Southwest patrons who wagered in favor of Justin Timberlake bringing out Jay-Z to assist with “Suit & Tie” for the final MySpace Secret Show, here’s hoping those bets won’t break the bank. Without Hov, the five-time “Saturday Night Live” host more than held his own in front of the 700-plus fans packed into Coppertank Events Center.
Timberlake, who has become something of a pop-culture polymath during his seven-year hiatus between his second and third solo albums, took the stage just after midnight. Backup band the Tennessee Kids toned down their Rat Pack swagger for the night, wearing sports apparel and sneakers instead of tuxedos. But before they rocked out, Roots drummer ?uestlove put in work on the 1’s and 2’s, working the vinyl records and mixer with the precision of a brain surgeon.
An expert turntablist, Quest played a medley of crowd-pleasing songs that set the tone for the evening, like Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” Michael Jackson’s “PYT,” Kanye West’s “Power” and Lil Wayne’s “A Milli,” all while blending current hits with the original song sampled by the artists. For the uninitiated, that means when the veteran disc jockey played Scarface’s “Guess Who’s Back,” he first cued up “Sunrise” by the Originals, then blended in verses by the Geto Boy frontman and Jigga.
After the Philadelphia native satiated fans with an appetizing mix of hits, MySpace’s most famous investor took the stage dressed in a black tuxedo print T-shirt, jeans, blazer and fedora cradling his guitar and launched into the Neptunes-produced “Like I Love You” from 2002’s Justified, which got both the ladies and gentlemen in the crowd pumped up.
Timberlake then reached for a fan’s cellphone and took a picture of the crowd with it, subsequently asking the crowd if they “were ready to turn up” before showing off his wide array of dance moves while crooning the Timbaland-produced “My Love” and “Cry Me A River.” Justin’s 16-piece band really flexed their sonic muscle, getting wicked on the sticks and thrashing guitar riffs and electric bass solos. JT has gotten quite adept at segueing hip-hop non sequiturs into his songs of late, this time opting for the refrain from Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” and Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything,” respectively.
According to Justin’s calculations, the crowd was only “turned up to 82 percent” at this point, so to get everyone to that next level, the singer turned up the heat with his new song, “Pusher Love Girl,” dancing at full tilt while owning his own signature falsetto like a seasoned maestro conducting a symphony orchestra.
“You at 91 percent now,” the 32-year-old singer said, gauging the crowd. “How do we get this to 100?”
Stepping behind the keyboard, Justin began belting out one of his early tracks, “Señorita,” engaging the throng in a call-and-response, substantially raising the decibel levels in the intimate venue with the cacophonous boom bap of hand claps. Apparently, that was enough for a perfect score.
Before ending his rhythmically kinetic 90-minute set, which included the singer sharing his hilarious misadventures while trying to buy chocolate chip ice cream at a local ice creamery, Justin served up “FutureSex/LoveSound” and, of course, “SexyBack” from the multi-platinum LP, FutureSex/LoveSounds.