Arena Birmingham, 27th August 2018.
Where to even begin?
How about back in 1998 when I was 14 years old and fell in love with a boyband called NSYNC? Justin Timberlake was allllllllways the man for me 😍😍
I was always gutted that I never got to experience NSYNC live as to my knowledge, they never really seemed to tour the UK.
Fast-forward to 2002 when Mr JT launched his solo career and his star was propelled even further into the stratosphere. Justified was THE pop/dance/R&B fused album and I still play it to this day. Justin has, of course, had 3 (4 if you count the 20/20 Experience as two separate albums) further albums since his Justified debut and has toured the UK with each release…
Cue the dream of seeing Justin in the flesh finally being fulfilled. I’ve been along to see all of Justin’s previous UK tours. His last tour was in 2014, when he brought the 20/20 Experience to our shores and my word, it was a show and a half.
Through some kind of inexplicable stroke of luck, I managed to land front row seats for one of his dates in Manchester and I thought I was going to burst with excitement. It was the show of dreams and I just could not believe that I was in such close proximity to the man himself. These next few photos were taken with my own fair hands that night:
I know right?!
Now in 2018, Justin is touring with his Man of The Woods show, named after his latest album release. It’s a HUGE tour, taking in 110 dates across America, Canada and Europe. It began in Toronto on 13th March and finally, FINALLY, it was my turn to see it on 27th August in good old Birmingham.
The difference between this tour and his last is that the floor area is standing and not seated. I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get a good view but how wrong I was! More on just how wrong I was later…
The staging of this show was something else. As well as the main stage area, there was a dancefloor and bar area towards the middle, which was for VIP ticket holders, as well as other bits of stage sprawling out in different directions pretty much right across the arena floor. It meant that everybody in the arena would have a pretty decent view of the man himself at different points throughout the night, which I thought was great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always nice to have him directly in front of you for the whole thing, but the shared love for the whole arena was a nice touch – well played JT.
My friends and I were hoping for a spot more towards the bottom of the whole staging area. Some of the girls I went with had seen the show in London the month before and assured me it was the best place to be. Luckily we got a spot right on the barrier and oh my giddy aunt, the stage was CLOSE. Even closer than the stage had been when I was front row 4 years ago. I was somewhat excited, let me tell you 😂
That bit in yellow is an indication if where we were stood!
Before we knew it, it was showtime. The setlist (full list is at the bottom of this review) was pitched just right. Justin sang all of his UK singles from across all of his albums, plenty of new tracks from Man of The Woods, plus previous album tracks such as Drink You Away and Summer Love, which are personal favourites of mine. The only glitch for me was the omission of a track from his latest album called Sauce, which I love, but unfortunately didn’t make it into the show.
Justin played to the crowd amazingly well and made full use of the elaborate stage setup. There was no pocket of fans left unattended and Justin and his band even did a shot on stage mid-show and encouraged all of the fans to have a drink with them at the same time. Justin joked that the more we drank “the better he sounded”. This wasn’t true of course as his vocals and dancing were ON. POINT. I may sound biased, but I honestly believe he is a brilliant showman.
Aside from Justin being on stage, he also had his full cast of dancers and the Tennessee Kids, who are his backing band, out there too.
(Photos courtesy of The Tennessee Kids Instagram page)
The thing I’ve always loved about Justin’s shows is that he is humble enough to let his dancers and musicians share the spotlight with him. You’d often find members of the band coming out from the main stage to travel down to the smaller areas of the stage with him. There was also a section about two thirds into the show where part of the stage was transformed into a campfire setup, complete with log benches. Justin and his backing singers sat around the campfire and whilst Justin strummed away on his guitar, his backing singers had an opportunity to sing some songs each, including covers from Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles.
(Photo courtesy of this tour review from Metea Media)
During Rock Your Body, Justin took to the aforementioned dancefloor and performed the song literally within the crowd of fans in the VIP section. I couldn’t see a lot of it from where I was stood but I imagine that would’ve been an experience and a half for anybody.
(Photo taken from this article)
I think my favourite songs performed on the night were Mirrors, Like I Love You, Suit and Tie (he was SO CLOSE to us for this song) and Drink You Away.
Throughout the show, Justin interacted brilliantly with the crowd. There were plenty of times he reached over and sang directly into people’s cameras/phones or even just to their faces. The looks of excitement from fans when this was happening were so great! There were even times that Justin would reach over and hold people’s hands or give them a high-five.
Now, in all my time as a fan of JT, I never thought I would ever get particularly close to him. Those front row seats I had back in 2014 were the ultimate dream, and I didn’t believe they could be topped. Well, not only was he closer to me this night than ever before but something spectacular happened. The single best moment of my entire fangirl life thus far. I feel myself cringing ever so slightly typing this up but trust me, this is HUGE for me and something that I will possibly never ever get over.
My auntie had bought me an NSYNC t-shirt for my birthday the week before I went to the gig. I think she kinda did it as a bit of a joke and never thought I’d wear it. Well, I knew exactly where it would be getting its first outing – the Man of The Woods tour obvs. So I wore it with pride and five songs into the show, it happened.
Justin was going about his business, singing Man of The Woods when he meandered on down to our part of the stage. I was stood up on my tippy-toes, singing along and waving my arms when all of sudden he looked my way. At least, I thought he was looking my way. Then he grinned and pointed right at me. At least, I thought he was pointing at me. “Maybe he’s noticed the top?” I thought to myself. Then I had a brief word with myself and thought “don’t be bloody ridiculous, he won’t be looking at you, you utter fool”. Next thing I knew, he began striding over in my direction and by now I was thinking “OK maybe he HAS noticed the top…holy shit what’s going on”. He got closer and closer, grinning away whilst still singing, he got to the edge of the stage, right in front of me, leaned over, reached out and grabbed my hand. I didn’t know whether to cry or piss myself.
I don’t even know what the hell my face was doing during these few seconds and afterwards, it took me a good 20 minutes or so to calm down. That hand-hold had been TWENTY YEARS in the making!! I think I can die happy now to be quite honest 😂
THIS WAS THE MOMENT:
THAT IS MY HAND 😭😭😭
Overall the show was 10 out of 10 for me and I can only wish for him to add more UK dates on but alas, I don’t think it’s meant to be. The tour continues right through to 2019, ending in Denver, Colorado, on 29th January.
Justin – you’re the man 😍
Did any of you manage to catch the tour and what were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!
To finish, here are a few of my own photos from the night:
Midnight Summer Jam
Man of The Woods
Suit and Tie
Cry Me a River
Drink You Away
Until The End of Time
(Backing singer’s medley) Dreams/Ex-Factor/Come Together/Thank God I’m a Country Boy
What Goes Around Comes Around
Rock Your Body
Like I Love You
Can’t Stop The Feeling