Abu Dhabi: Justin Timberlake - the former boyband star known for his dance floor hits - added a rock edge to his already numerous talents, showcased in concert in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night.

It wasn't just the familiar hip-swinging, quick-footed Timberlake who played to over 13,000 fans from a specially-built stage at the Emirates Palace.

From the opener - the megahit Cry Me A River (rumoured to be about Timberlake's break-up with pop train-wreck Britney Spears) - the message was clear: Get ready to rock out.

Cry Me A River was reworked to feature a heavy guitar sound, far from the original version, and although Timberlake's falsetto was a somewhat jarring accompaniment, thankfully his legendary dance moves didn't suffer from the switch-up.

His was a mesmerising stage presence, a non-stop, body-popping dance machine who needed few props beside a jauntily-tilted hat and a couple of [modestly-dressed] dancing girls. Over the course of two hours, Timberlake launched himself around the stage in a series of carefully choreographed moves which nonetheless were natural and - it has to be said - far from innocent.

But then this was the final night of his 18-month-long FutureSex/LoveShow tour, so nobody could be in any doubt of the underlying theme - although the moves and dancers were noticeably toned down from previous performances in other cities. With tracks like Lovestoned and SexyLadies, Timberlake clearly owes Prince - another high-pitched, unlikely sex symbol - a great musical debt.

After that unsettling rock-out start, and a segue into covers that raised a smile in the over-30s in the crowd (including David Bowie's Rebel Rebel, Carly Simon's You're So Vain and Inxs's I Need You Tonight), Timberlake settled into a pattern of souped-up versions of the string of hits that have bombarded the charts in recent months, as well as some favourites from his first solo effort, Justified.

Señorita, a live favourite thanks to its audience participation factor, got the guitar treatment, as did Rock Your Body. The audience, on its feet from the very beginning, was by then following Timberlake's every move - a difficult task considering he barely paused for breath. Even more remarkable was the incredible quality of his voice throughout the concert, never missing a beat despite his obvious exertion.

He eventually did take a break, sitting at his keyboard for one of the evening's highlights and possibly the most eagerly anticipated song of the night: the epic What Goes Around Comes Around. Another superhit, and, as with Cry Me A River, about betrayal.


Up on the two giant screens, the audience received an extreme close-up of their idol, at once hilarious and shocking - perhaps Timberlake isn't that pop-star pretty boy, after all, and he's not afraid to show it. All the more endearing for his fans, one suspects.

His everlasting gratitude toward the "resort" was repeatedly drummed into us, and the high point was the reason he gave for enjoying his stay in Abu Dhabi SO much: "The geology". What did I tell you? Justin Timberlake really is all about the rock.

Your comments

The concert was worth flying in from Saudi Arabia for but the entry procedure was abysmal. I paid Dh895 to get a preferential ticket but had to queue up with everybody else. And then, after waiting for 45 minutes, they opened the gates and let everybody in anyway.
Dammam,Saudi Arabia
Posted: December 08, 2007, 11:55

The show was brilliant and puts Abu Dhabi on the world map. Timberlake is a talented performer with many hits to his credit. Many people wouldn't even know Yanni.
Dr Bullshisha
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: December 08, 2007, 08:49

Yanni is a great artiste but so is Justin Timberlake. Different people have different tastes in art and music.
Posted: December 08, 2007, 01:15

This is the best concert I have been to so far. Very well organised.
Posted: December 08, 2007, 00:20

Hats off to the Justin Timberlake show. The multicultural event was indeed inspiring. Music may yet save the world.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: December 07, 2007, 18:46

It was one of the better-organised shows but I don't understand why there was only one concert entry gate for a sold-out show. The amount of pushing and jostling to get in was maddening. I hope they learn from this and get the next one right by having more entry gates.
Posted: December 07, 2007, 16:51

The concert was amazing. Traffic management, the way the event was organised and the concert were all world class. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Thanks IMG!
Posted: December 07, 2007, 15:24

I don't understand why someone should be wasting time on such a concert. We should be selective and look forward to performances from real artistes such as Yanni.
Posted: December 07, 2007, 15:17

Never have I been to a concert that has been so well-organised. Everything went smoothly, and the security and the police were very helpful and polite. Of course, the concert itself was phenomenal. We are all looking forward to more concerts organised by the IMG and Mubadala.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: December 07, 2007, 11:17

This was the most amazing concert! Justin Timberlake sings as well as plays the guitar, piano and drums. He is the ultimate performer! The audience couldn't stop screaming his name. The Emirates Palace was the perfect venue and the organisers did a fabulous job. Everybody had a blast! Thank you for bringing Justin Timberlake to the UAE.
Posted: December 07, 2007, 10:29

I am delighted that the UAE is now attracting popular stars such as Timberlake. I wonder who will be next. Would love to see more stars performing in this beautiful region.
Posted: December 07, 2007, 08:21

Brilliant performance and a great venue! Very well organised. Kudos to Abu Dhabi for hosting arguably the best concert of the Middle East so far.
Posted: December 07, 2007, 01:49