Over Labor Day weekend, Justin Timberlake's bringing sexy back to New York one more time when HBO airs a concert special filmed over the last two nights on Madison Square Garden.
Television viewers will get a much better view of Mr. Timberlake's moves than concertgoers did in the nosebleed sections last night. But what they won't see is the lust, which seemed to permeate the very air inside the arena.
On Wednesday night at Tower A, Gate 405, the thousand-strong come-on directed at the stage took on epic proportions. A friend leaned over and stage-whispered to a reporter: "The sexual energy in here is kind of overwhelming."
On Thursday, four rows from the stage, it was the same.
Everywhere, girls! Singing along so loudly and so precisely that whenever J.T. took one of his many surprise pauses, there was no break at all, their voices floating in the void; raising their hands, camera phones out, shooting video from a hundred feet away; screaming when he asked, hushing when he sat down at the piano. It wasn't a tank-and-jeans crowd. Glowing with their Jersey Shore tans, everyone was dressed to the nines, wobbling in stilettos in the beer line, adjusting strapless bras under tube tops. There were no men to hit on; it was all for J.T.
Every night, Justin Timberlake performs to thousands and thousands of women who want to sleep with him. These days, there are very -very-few men in the world with that kind of power.
Blind lust is embarrassing, but J.T. not only allows it, he seems to thrive on it–at least that's how it feels when you're in a room–however gigantic–with him. He's a dirty gentleman, like the guy who spent the whole night grinding up against you and then picked up the bar tab-and went home alone.
So one second he's performing "Summer Love," singing "Make you want to say my name!" while a backup dancer bends over for him, and the next he's playing "What Goes Around Comes Around," a revenge song written on his best friend's behalf. J.T.'s nasty, and he's loyal.
On the FutureSex/LoveShow tour, it's obvious that he loves to dance for this crowd. The spotlight catches him, and he does a solo. Half robot, half Fred Astaire, he alternately jerks and glides around the stage, totally confident, swirling his hips around like he's Shakira. It would be so easy to look very bad doing this, but in his suit, tie and suspenders, he comes off like a cute banker dancing in his apartment before a date. And that's a compliment: doesn't everyone do their best dancing when no one is looking?
But that's just it: we are looking.
The feeling you were getting something out of this show that the television viewers wouldn't was almost a compensation for the intrusiveness of the filming. For people in more remote seats, giant camera booms obstructed the view now and then, as if to remind the crowd that the real money was in the televised and therefore de-sexed television performance. J.T.'s shout-outs to the home-viewing audience (at one point he declared himself "humbled" by the "millions of people watching," when in fact he was emboldened by thousands) took away a bit of the face-to-face magic.
But nothing can take away that feeling of piqued teenage excitement that animated his live show–and however much of that does come across on TV screens this Labor Day, I bet all of us who were there will tune in to watch him strut and spin, over and over again (thank you DVR!).