Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods tour has not gone as planned. Last fall, the singer had to cancel multiple rounds of arena dates due to severely bruised vocal cords, a setback that left the singer devastated. “I’ve never encountered anything like this,” Timberlake told Rolling Stone in an e-mail interview during that hiatus. “I hate to disappoint everyone who spends their hard-earned money to come see me. So, even though it is out of my control, it is still pretty frustrating. Being on stage is truly one of my favorite things to do.”
After months off the road, Timberlake returned to the stage January 4th in Washington, D.C., his smooth tenor intact as he danced hard through a marathon of hits on an innovative stage that slopes through the arena floor. At various times in the 21-song set, the stage morphs into a campfire, a river, a laser cage and a disco floor. Timberlake says it’s changed the way he looks at performing.
“I’m always trying to find ways to create a unique experience for my fans and myself,” he says. “I feel like this show with the stage and production I was able to design has really put me down in the middle of the crowds and makes for a really connective and immersive couple of hours. Particularly, one part of the show where I actually come down to a part of the floor and really get close to everyone. It’s a little nostalgic for me, too, because it reminds me when clubs were actually clubs in L.A. and people went out to dance and feel that energy. In all seriousness, it is one thing to stand on stage and say, ‘I see you down there singing and dancing your hearts out,’ but it’s a whole other vibe to get down there with them and do it too!”
Timberlake’s pre-show routine begins early in the day and lasts right up until showtime. “I treat it a lot like an athlete would, because it’s a very physical show and I ain’t getting any younger,” adds the singer, 37. “Right before we hit the stage, I circle up with my band and dancers, we say a prayer and then I’ll make up a chant that’s specific to the city, state or country that we’re in. It’s just something fun for us to get amped up with together.”
Timberlake’s tour hits New York’s Madison Square Garden this Thursday, and runs through April.