Although we are barely 3 months into 2018, there should be little room for debate that Justin Timberlake‘s “The Man of the Woods Tour” will be billed as one of the biggest tours of the year. My anticipation for this show was already sky high from the moment he announced that he would be hitting the road in support of his new album.
The last time I had the opportunity to see JT crush the stage was on his AMAZING “The 20/20 Experience World Tour” back in 2013, which I just couldn’t stop raving about. I rocked with that tour so much that I saw it four times during it’s various legs, so I saw the “experience” progress and evolve.
This past Sunday’s concert at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. marked only his third show of TMOTWT, so we were fortunate to see it in what we’re sure is still its’ “infancy” stage, meaning that there are some kinks to iron out before it rolls on as a well oiled machine, and Justin sits comfortably into his full on performance capacity.
Fans began to trickle into the Capital One Arena and found themselves walking into an instant party, when the tour DJ had started his set promptly at 7:30 PM. With his call outs to find the #1 JT fan in the crowd and playing party tunes from today and yesteryear, how could anyone stay in their seat? One thing is for sure, the “Man Of The Woods” knows how to pull a crowd, as the concert was sold out! From a quick observation around the bowl of the arena, this was one of the most age-diverse concert crowds I have ever witnessed. You had a range of folks, varying from young pre-teen girls who probably were just introduced to Timberlake via his new album, coupled with middle-age women who at one point, were those same exact teenie boopers I just mentioned, screaming their hearts out over a young JT at an NSYNC concert in the 90’s, and then you had the ladies whom look like they TOOK their daughters to an *NSYNC concert.
Although the tour is already a few days into its run, a few new additions are constantly being introduced, most notably at the Washington, D.C., the addition of his opening act, The Shadowboxers, who are signed to JT’s label Villa 40. If you’ve never heard of The Shadowboxers before, let us catch you up to speed on them really quick.
Comprised of members Scott Tyler, Matt Lipkins and Adam Hoffman, the Atlanta based group formed in 2008 and was introduced to their mentor in 2013, after performing a cover of “Pusher Love Girl” and catching his attention. Fast forward to today, they are opening up for this tour…talk about full circle.
Hitting the stage at 8 PM sharp, I immediately took notice to the fact that each of the band members played an instrument, which is something that is lacking in the today’s climate of music. After seeing them two songs into their set, I couldn’t help the vibe that I got from them that felt like the were a hybrid between The Jonas brothers based on their musical talent and and early version of N*SYNC because of their stage presence. Please don’t take this comparison as a diss, as these are two heavy weight boy bands who have made tremendous impacts on the music industry over the years, so the group’s presence will be filling a void.
Their 31 minute set was comprised of mostly tracks from their forthcoming debut EP “Apollo“, which is available for streaming and purchase on Friday, March 23rd. Of the songs they did perform, we were treated to their current single “Timezone” and debut single “Hot Damn!“, but the one that really pulled me in was when they hit a jamming rendition of one of my most favorite songs of all time, Michael Jackson‘s “Remember The Time“, music video choreography included. If I were not tuned in to their performance before, this one right here would have had me locked in. It takes a lot of guts for anyone to cover a King Of Pop tune, much less on a major stage as this, but they pulled it off and had me singing along. Being the long time Michael fan that I am, I was impressed.
TMOTWT may be their big debut on a major tour, but something tells me that this won’t be their last time playing to larger audiences, so please take the opportunity to get into them to see where their musical journey takes them. If not for any other reason, do it because JT says so!
9 PM arrives and it’s officially time to take a stroll through the woods with the man of the night. The show started off in one of the most unique ways that I’ve ever experienced live, with a flood of light pouring out from backstage and illuminating on the adjacent walls of the venue. In that path of light were the silhouettes of Justin’s band, The Tennessee Kids, making their way out on stage and as the final member made his way out, the huge MOTW logo, with it’s own built in light show, slowly descended from the rafters and signaled for JT’s arrival. At this very moment, the intro notes to “Filthy” along with the words “D.C., if you know what’s good” echoed inside the Capital One Arena.
From that point on we were strapped in for a two-hour long roller coaster ride of a show, that rarely stopped moving, and I mean that in all honesty. Aside from his leading single from MOTW, the opening set included another new song “Midnight Summer Jam“, which we’re sure is to be the Summer jam of 2018, as well as past mega hits “SexyBack” and “LoveStoned“.
Justin reached his fans from one corner of the arena to the other via his uniquely designed set. Never one to stray away from the conventional end stage configuration, this multi-level, multi-part, multi-functional “in the round” stage was one of the stars of the show. There were trees lined up along the course of the walk ways, tall patches of grass, and even a campfire with real flames which helped round out the theme, which Justin had explained was the ability to bring the experience of the outside in. Another element that I thought as cool was the use of many retractable screens placed all around the stage to help simulate dusk and the nighttime sky out in the woods. Major production undertakings to this degree is no easy feat, and do this, we have to give much credit to Marty Kudelka, who serves as Justin’s longtime collaborator, creative director, and choreographer.
Speaking of choreography, there was no shortage of intricate dance moves, that were best displayed on songs like “Cry Me A River“, “My Love“, and “Suit & Tie“. Armed with six dancers, three female and three male, who hit each routine with such precision and further brought the performance to life, it was hard to tell that they had just kicked off a world tour. I’ve got to give an extra special shout out to the female dancer with the curly fro because she danced as if her life depended on it.
To switch gears from all the constant movement, the next section of the show was noticeably more calm when the show took a turn to emulate a fireside chat, that doubled as a chance for his band and background singers to display their solo talent. Since we’re here, let’s talk about his band for a bit.
The Tennessee Kids band always brings the funk, and that’s clearly no surprise as they are powered by some of my most favorite musicians currently on the pop act touring circuit. At the helm of the live sound is musical director extraordinaire Adam Blackstone on the bass, Brian Frasier-Moore beating it up and “keeping time” on the drums, and “Big D” Daniel Jones on the keys. While their job is to preserve the unique sound of each signature hit, they still found ways to breathe new life into the arrangements by mixing in a few more contemporary beats.
On the home stretch of the show, why not pick up the pace again? With the end in sight, JT hit a grand slam while singing “Summer Love“, “Rock Your Body“, and new single “Supplies” before closing out the show with his feel good hit “Can’t Stop The Feeling!“.
For our final remarks, we definitely liked the show and totally understand that it’s in support of his latest album, but we found that we would have LOVED the show with a few setlist tweaks. We wouldn’t be mad if Justin could have ditched a few filler songs i.e. “Drink You Away“ in exchange for more potent tracks like “Strawberry Bubblegum“, “Don’t Hold The Wall” or “Last Night“.
The Man Of The Woods Tour rolls on to New York City for two sold out nights at the famed Madison Square Garden later on this week.
Get into our gallery of photos from the night, shot by our own Arturo Holmes.