Is there such thing as a good version of PTSD? Post-Terrific Sensation Disorder?
Because that's what I was afflicted with upon viewing Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids concert film released to Netflix on Oct. 12.
After an introduction to the unique and talented Tennessee Kids, Justin's band, background singers and dancers, the movie begins with Timberlake's final moments in the shoot before his last shows on the worldwide and blockbuster The 20/20 Experience World Tour.
As Justin sings and swivels his way through the opening number, "Pusher Love Girl," with his effecting amalgam of classic charisma and modern swagger, this Small Screen Girl and a diehard Timberlake fan, it felt like an adrenaline-drenched sense memory of the actual shows I attended on January 1 and 2, 2015 in Las Vegas.
The Netflix documentary shows, albeit with some clunkiness, that Justin Timberlake is a phenomenal performer, musician and visionary at the height of his career. And after 130 dates of The 20/20 Experience World Tour, it also highlights the pure joy and palpable bond Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids have on stage. Think of it as a family jam session with 17,000 people, pyrotechnics and an eye-popping production trick that ensures every seat in the house is a great one.
On a gorgeous stage, replete with a massive band and orchestra, and a comely hexagonal backdrop that projects spectacular visuals, lasers and lighting, Timberlake glides through staples "Like I Love You, Rock Your Body, My Love" and also lesser known or newer songs, including "FutureSexLoveSounds" and "Only When I Walk Away," effortlessly proving that with just three solo albums under his belt, JT's songbook is enviably stuffed with more bangers and slow jams than your average pop star. He also spices up his set list with the killer chorus of "Holy Grail" (without collaborator Jay Z's rap) and a funky cover of Bel Biv Devoe's "Poison" that has the audience absolutely howling.
It must stated that Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids is a concert meant to introduce and indoctrinate new JT fans who may not have had an opportunity to attend the concert and isn't as familiar with his talent or musciality. It is not, however, a true representation of what happened on the final nights of filming. Fans, famous and not, were there to take part in this moment in Timberlake history, but also to give back as much love and joy as he'd shared with audiences over nearly two straight years of touring.
The arena in the MGM Grand is fairly small, yet the audience erupted in a cacophonous roar from the second the lights dropped and only got louder as the concert progressed. It was a sound that ran in my ears days after the songs ended. Timberlake, overwhelmed at the response, barely made it through the first few songs before becoming overcome with emotion (as you'll see again by the epic final song, "Mirrors"). The fans shouted, whooped and screamed every lyric of every song, and the always on JT performed with a fire and an intensity I have never ever before, and I have a lot to compare it to. The way JT energized and commanded the audience is an innate gift, and if you've ever doubted his natural and honed musical talents, you never will again.
Thus, it's a little jarring that so much of that was left on the cutting room floor along with JT's best songs. With the show that is well over two hours (and over three in the first runs of the tour), it makes sense to opt for a shorter run time, though I question the decision to nix more than 10 songs that are trademark Timberlake, including his pivotal "Cry Me A River," the utterly romantic "Not A Bad Thing," "That Girl" and too many more.
Director Jonathan Demme wisely chose a minimalistc style to capture the grandeur of the thrilling show, however, by removing so many songs, the latter half of the concert is is a little anemic and clunky, thanks to a few abrupt transitions.
Even with those minor grievances, I can think of no other musicians I would want to chill with than Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids. And this exhilarating concert film is the coronation of a new musical legend.
Photo Credits: JustinTimberlake.com