By the time Justin Timberlake’s shadow loomed giant-sized over the Times Union Center stage, the pandemonium was deafening.
The tension from months of waiting and the high costs of tickets uncorked itself as high-pitched teenage shrills that drowned out his opening falsetto vocals for “Pusher Love Girl.”
Then the stage floor opened, and up rose the 15-piece group, which included percussion, horns, singers and dancers.
Timberlake delivered a fast-paced, high-energy show of nonstop dancing and singing against a backdrop of incessant video — mostly animated and enormous — and staccato lights. The larger-than-life, often exaggerated production turned out to be good, clean entertainment.
During “Future Sex Love Sound,” the crowd got the first taste of his slick movements, he and his dancers sliding across the stage together through countless moves. “My Love”and “TKO” called on some vocals, but for the most part he talked and rapped his way through songs without any break in the dancing, running and shuffling. A minor thrust forward of his hip during “Love Stoned” sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Early in the show, he stood at the extended edge of the stage with hands in pockets, turning slowly to each side of the packed arena, assessing the situation, bowing, holding his heart and getting the same from his fans. He tried to talk several times before the cheering silenced him. Unfortunately, his message turned out to be “Albany, let’s party,” which he repeated pretty much during and between every song.
The stage descended, taking the band with it and leaving Timberlake alone with a white grand piano. The cellphones came out, lighting up the arena while Timberlake sang “Until the End of Time.”
After “Cry Me a River” and a 10-minute break, he came out with an acoustic guitar, the house lights came up and he talked a bit more about drinking and partying, adding that the last time he played Albany was 2003. He followed with “Drink You Away,” one of the most audible and melodic tunes of the night. He showed his voice was capable — even strong — on this one.
The stage swallowed the band again — they were invisible but audible, leaving Timberlake to sing the fast-paced electronica-heavy “Tunnel Vision.”
During the back end of the night, a walkway that spanned the width of the sold-out floor moved from the stage to the back of the arena, carrying Timberlake and four vocalists. The skywalk hovered above the audience on the floor while they performed.
He then came down a long flight of steps to a tiny stage in the middle of the floor, where he shook hands, then sang and danced to “Heartbreak Hotel.” While this was the most fun of the night, he was surprisingly weak in singing. No matter, the audience happily screamed through it.
And, of course, “Suit and Tie” and “Mirrors” to close the night.
Timberlake is all business out there. He knows all eyes are on him, and his presence is captivating. Every move counts — including his occasional moments of no movement — and he knows this. He takes himself seriously up there and comes off as endearing while doing it.
The show moved fast, the songs came quick and often followed without gaps. The lights and dancers never stopped, a perfect show for audiences with short attention spans and busy with their phones.