Suave, sexy and spectacular – The Justin Timberlake 20/20 World Tour

JT

To lump Justin Timberlake’s music into the “pop” genre is a serious oversight of his talent. The degree of quality, finesse and utter class of his music is unparalleled in the industry at the moment, especially with the likes of Miley Cyrus, 5SOS and Pitbull flooding the radio.

It’s been seven years since JT toured in Australia and judging from the squeals of joy and the roaring applauses that stunned even the singer himself, we’ve been eagerly awaiting his return.

From the moment the dashing singer stepped onto the stage, everyone was in a state of constant awe and bewilderment throughout the 150-minute show. Everything from the songs, the band, the dancing and stage that moved over our heads in the mosh pit, literally left fans with their mouths agape in admiration.

The setlist included a perfect mix of hits from The 20/20 Experience and his older music which induced a welcome wave of nostalgia. Interestingly, it was the hits from his album Justified that received the loudest reaction, proving his fan-base remained loyal in his long absence.

Image: Juliana Mare

Image: Juliana Mare

With an aura of 1920’s class and glamour, the Tennessee Kids looked incredibly dapper on stage and provided an entertaining element of theatricality. Having never seen anyone play a trombone, trumpet or tuba live, the 15 Tennessee Kids had that cool jazz vibe that I envision the musicians of the clubs in New Orleans to have.

JT’s dancing is a sublime hybrid of modern Hip Hop popping and locking, Michael Jackson-esque moves and a dash of the swinging classics of the early 20th century. It’s a completely unique style that was equally as impressive as the music.

Even though the dance moves were quick and intricate and his music requires a mix of falsetto, some fast verses and a smooth tenor, JT makes it look easy, never missing a beat. As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, he also played a stunning white grand piano during Until The End of Time.

I don’t think the word excellent is good enough to describe JT’s 20/20 World Tour. Usually after surviving a mosh pit, I find my throat is sore and my voice is scratchy the following day – the result of my screaming in admiration. The morning after the Justin Timberlake concert, not only did my voice creak and rasp, my cheek muscles felt tired and worn which I can only assume is a result of having a constant, gigantic smile plastered on my face for over two hours. Make of that what you will.

Ed Sheeran: Tuesday March 5

I wrote this review for Time Out Melbourne, it’s quite tame considering all I wanted to do was scream out “I love you, Ginger Jesus!!” from the mosh.

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The beat-boxing slash love song extraordinaire serenades Melbourne, again.

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One guitar and a loop station is all Ed Sheeran needs to have a sold-out venue full of starry eyed fans flailing with excitement and awe. As Sheeran walks onto the stage in a red tee which clashes brilliantly with his hair and an acoustic guitar, the eruption of applause confirms that although it’s only been five months since his last tour, fans have been counting the days until his return.

With the setlist mostly from his triple platinum album +, the crowd eagerly chants the lyrics to the chart-topping singles including ‘Drunk’, ‘Lego House’ and ‘Give Me Love’, tracks off his earlier EPs and after some practice runs, nails the cover songs too.

It puts a massive smile on Sheeran’s face when the lyrics are screamed back to him, encouraged by his words: “We will judge you if you don’t sing!” His lyrics melt into shouts and screams whenever Sheeran added an extra, crazy fast rap verse to a song, but somehow the crowd manages to keep up when he mashes the chorus of Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ into the extended version of ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’.

It’s something special to see Sheeran sing a duet with his mate Passenger (Mike Rosenberg) who’s been on tour with him for the past 15 months. They take a verse each from Passenger’s own song ‘Hearts on Fire’ and sing together for the chorus, each armed with only an acoustic guitar. While Sheeran certainly deserves all the applause he gets, it’s refreshing to actually hear him sing this song without the echo of a thousand fans.

At last year’s gig it was impressive when the audience of the Palais Theatre fell utterly silent upon request. Achieving the same result at a sold out show at Festival Hall tonight just goes to show how captivating a performer and songwriter Sheeran truly is. We’re stunned into silence when ‘The Parting Glass’ – a hidden bonus track from the album ‘+’ – begins playing. With just his one guitar, Sheeran strips the traditional Scottish and Irish song right back before morphing the tune into ‘The A-Team’ for one hell of a finale.

It’s not just his rapping that’s speedy, Sheeran also has a knack for strumming and thumping his guitar fast enough to actually break strings. Almost inevitably, tonight is no different. By the end of the evening, Sheeran’s hair is dripping with sweat but he’s the type of artist that you’re more than willing to suffer through a hot, damp mosh pit for.

Gig review: Ed Sheeran, Melbourne 03/08/12

The “ginger Jesus” gets hearts racing at the Palais.

The walls of the theatre are shaking from the screams of thousands of fangirls as the British singer walks out in an orange tee that’s a slightly brighter shade than his own hair. He opens with a love song from his album ‘+’, ‘Give Me Love’ and the crowd goes nuts – because with the clever use of a loop pedal, Sheeran makes it seem as if he’s working with a full band when really he’s just incredibly talented with the one acoustic guitar he has on stage. The audience, he labels the ‘Melbourne Gospel Choir’ – and we become the lower and higher harmonies. With the acoustics at the Palais, it sounds incredible.

The gospel choir is again enlisted for ‘Homeless’, ‘The City’, and the Nina Simone cover ‘Be My Husband’. It’s not a singing contest, Sheeran says: “Just sing as loud as you can.” There are few souls in the crowd not up on their feet during the 10-minute extended version of ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’, and we’re hopelessly trying to keep up with him as he beat-boxes and raps so fast as to leave Drake or Eminem in his dust.

Traditional folk song ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ is heartstopping when the music drops out and Sheeran belts out the last verse a capella. There’s something quite spectacular about his voice ringing out into the Palais with no music or screaming, although there’s the odd gasp from awed fans. Those who decide this is a good time to scream out “I love you!” are quickly shushed.

When he sings ‘Kiss Me’ – a song he wrote for his godparents’ wedding – Sheeran politely asks the crowd not to sing along to this acoustic rendition. Irrespective of whether it’s one of the big radio hits or a softer melody, the fans erupt with applause and scream until their voices are hoarse. Really, it just goes to show how diverse and genre-defying Sheeran’s music is.

The night ends with the Palais turning into a sea of lights as mobile phones are waved in sync with the song that first put Sheeran on the charts, ‘The A Team’ and as per his request, everyone belts out the last line. He’s easy-going on stage with a boyish charm that makes him seem like the kind of chap you’d be happy to bring home to the folks.

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This is also published on the Time Out Melbourne site!