Justin Timberlake Delivers Peak Performance at Hits-Filled L.A. Forum Show: Concert Review

“What you are about experience may or may not be real,” reads a caption on a TV that Justin Timberlake gazes upon during an introductory vignette for his Forget Tomorrow world tour. At Los Angeles’ Kia Forum on Friday night, the pop star existed in the throes of fantasy and spectacle — an arena where he continually thrives — away from all the headlines and critiques of the past few years. Throughout his nearly two-hour set, pop artistry led the way as he toured his discography with an ease that only years of practice can achieve.

At his essence, Timberlake is a consummate showman, educated in the school of boyband philosophy where precision is key. At 43 years old, Timberlake is just as sharp and exact as he’s been throughout his decades-long career, hitting every cue and note with intent and purpose. He’s fresh off the release of his sixth solo album “Everything I Thought It Was,” a sprawling project that often retreated to past tropes and musical habits, as well as the flurry of reputation-shaking headlines that dogged him the past few years.

More from Variety

But none of that existed in the world he created for his electrifying performance in L.A., where throngs of millennials gathered to relive hits of the past and engage with newer, less familiar material. His last tour, in support of his 2018 album “Man of the Woods,” was an interactive affair built on a stage that snaked through the audience. For Forget Tomorrow, Timberlake opted for a simpler, more traditional assembly, with a front-venue stage and a raised platform in the back that he graced for a more acoustic set of songs. A mobile monolith that hovered above and behind him for much of the set added technical flair, flashing images of Timberlake that accented songs with a psychedelic lilt.

With that, Timberlake let the music and dancing speak for itself; there wasn’t an abundance of banter throughout the evening, save for an endearing moment where he chatted with a young fan on his way to the B-stage. He treated attendees to a masterclass in pop performance, setting the tone from the moment he emerged, trenchcoat and all, from a trapdoor in the stage to “Memphis,” the opening salvo of “Everything I Thought It Was.”

“We’re just getting warmed up, baby,” he mused as he led into “LoveStoned,” “Like I Love You” and “My Love” (a trifecta of love songs, if you will). The set was a well-oiled machine: Timberlake was just as quick to work the crowd on either side of the stage as he was to snap back into choreography with his coterie of dancers and musicians. And if anyone was wondering, yes, the mic was on. Timberlake’s voice is a sharp instrument. There’s no sign of wear on his crisp falsetto, and he punctuated each song with control, sending the delicate notes of “Pusher Love Girl” and “What Goes Around… Comes Around” into orbit.

There were times when the audience grew listless, not necessarily because of Timberlake or his artistic prowess. The Forget Tomorrow tour is in support of “Everything I Thought It Was,” an album that didn’t resonate as far and wide as previous albums, and the crowd seemed unfamiliar with some of the material from it. But Timberlake treated each new song with care and detail; the pop-funk of “Infinity Sex” and “Fuckin’ Up the Disco” felt vibrant, and opener “No Angels” brought a sizzle that permeated throughout the night.

By the time Timberlake mounted the monolith and it rose in the air for the show’s conclusion, it felt like something of a victory lap. Timberlake is a natural who’s spent years honing his performative craft, and to see him float above the crowd felt almost poetic. “I can see you’re lookin’ back at me / Keep your eyes on me,” he sang on “Mirrors” as the giant slab tilted and Timberlake leaned forward, suspended on wires. As the crowd clapped along, the lyrics rang true. Timberlake is as instructional as he is commanding, not only of his fans but of the skills that demand their attention.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.