JT's Man of the Woods is a Man of the People

Justin Timberlake put on quite the show before several thousand Houstonians on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Justin Timberlake put on quite the show before several thousand Houstonians on Wednesday night at Toyota Center. Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Say all you want about Justin Timberlake’s new record, and God knows many have. Overstuffed. Empty. The hits go on. Timberlake’s latest record – Man of the Woods – has been met with reviews that can safely be labeled “mixed.” This isn’t entirely fair, as Man of the Woods is a perfectly fine record with more quality tracks than for which it’s given credit.

But I digress. Point being, question his latter-day era hits all you want, but Timberlake the performer was as strong as ever before a packed house at Toyota Center on Wednesday night for Round 1 of his Man of the Woods Tour (round 2 is Friday night, and JT is back in town again in January). Timberlake, with his Tennessee Kids band and a cadre of quality backup singers in tow, blasted through a two-hour set that featured lights, smoke, trees and grass. Yes, grass – dude is a man of the woods, after all.

Timberlake is a pro at this point in his career. Having been in the pop game for some 20-plus years, he and his team know how to craft a set and a show. That’s how you end up with early portions of the set that ably blend old (“SexyBack”) and new (“Filthy”), before getting into the heart of matters with “Cry Me a River” and “Mirrors.”

Again, being a man of the woods, Timberlake and his talented bandmates retreated to an interlude of sorts, in which they sat beside a makeshift campfire and took turn strumming tunes by everyone from the Beatles to Lauryn Hill to John Denver.

From there, Timberlake returned to the main set with hits like “What Goes Around … Comes Around” and “Rock Your Body,” before closing out with his biggest tune in recent years – “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Timberlake closed out his set by dedicating the show to those killed at Santa Fe High School last week. It was a fitting tribute and a classy way to end the show.

Not that Houstonians pining for more JT have to wait very long. Dude is back on stage tomorrow night.

So, How Was the Crowd?: Well, they were pumped. This was a crowd mostly comprised of the 25-40 set, those who had the disposable income to buy a few pops and hopefully the wherewithal to Uber home. Fortunately, a lively crowd helps a lively show, and the packed house at Toyota Center on Wednesday night didn’t disappoint.

Random Notebook Dump: Props to Houston’s own Nicole, one of Timberlake’s backup singers … Props to the pregnant lady whose soon-to-arrive child (two weeks away!) got the most famous serenade of anyone in the building … They had a bar down on the floor, which is ten kinds of badass … Kudos to those who had to take down Timberlake’s rather expansive set on Wednesday night, only to reassemble after the Rockets and Warriors do battle in a pivotal Game 5 on Thursday night … Apparently, Timberlake – seeking a little treatment on his neck – ran into James Harden in the Rockets’ training room on Wednesday.

Overheard in the Crowd: “He’s just so damn cute,” said one 40-something lady to another as they exited the arena on Wednesday night. Can’t say I disagree.

Midnight Summer Jam
Love Stoned
Man of the Woods
Higher Higher
Suit & Tie
Big Pimpin’ (interlude DJ set)
My Love
Cry Me a River
Drink You Away

Campfire Set
Until the End of Time
Come Together
Thank God I’m a Country Boy

Main Set
What Goes Around … Comes Around
Say Something
Rock Your Body
Like I Love You
Can’t Stop the Feeling
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale