More than 30 years into his career, Justin Timberlake has played practically every famous stage in the world. Yet, on Jan. 19, the multi-hyphenate star performed on perhaps the most meaningful one so far: the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee.
"I've been dreaming for a long time to come back to my hometown and play the Orpheum," Timberlake, a born-and-raised Memphian, told the crowd. "My mother used to bring me here to see shows, and everything looks so much bigger. But this city and this venue is very, very special to me."
As much as the homecoming meant to Timberlake, the show was also equally exciting for fans: it means an album and a tour are on the way.
Two days before the concert — which was free for fans who won tickets through a Ticketmaster lottery — Timberlake teased the acronym "EITIW" in a cryptic Instagram post. (The letters also graced a T-shirt for sale at the venue.) Following the show, he revealed the letters to mean "Everything I Thought It Was," seemingly the title of his forthcoming sixth studio album.
While the 90-minute set list was largely dedicated to JT classics, Timberlake's latest Memphis performance wasn't just a celebration of his discography — it was an indication that he's ready to get the next chapter started.
As Timberlake gears up for his latest "Saturday Night Live" appearance on Jan. 27, check out five of the most memorable moments from his Memphis homecoming.
His Mom Was In The Crowd
It wouldn't be a hometown show without Mom there. But Timberlake's mom, Lynn, wasn't just in attendance — she was in the middle of the crowd, dancing and singing to every song.
"She's not proud at all," Timberlake joked after pointing her out.
To top things off, her birthday was the next day, so the singer instructed the Orpheum audience to sing "Happy Birthday." "She's gonna start celebratin' at midnight, I just know it," he quipped. "So we gotta kick this off the right way."
His Hometown Love Was Palpable
As Timberlake displayed in his social media post announcing the Orpheum performance, he has been proclaiming his hometown pride since the beginning of his career. And throughout all 90 minutes of the show, there was no denying that his love for Memphis — which he kept fondly referring to as "M-town" — is still very much alive.
While cheers indicated that the majority of the Orpheum crowd were from the area, Timberlake had one message for those who traveled to the show: "Welcome to the greatest city on Earth."
After that, he "couldn't resist" paying tribute to one of the city's soul legends (and one of his biggest inspirations), Al Green, with a breezy cover of "Let's Stay Together."
He Did Every Ad Lib (And Then Some)
Those who have seen Timberlake live know that he doesn't shy away from his signature falsetto in concert. That was no different at the Orpheum, but it felt like he was on another level on a hometown stage.
Along with hitting the high notes in "Like I Love You" and "Cry Me a River," he added little improvised moments to several songs. For "My Love" alone, he busted out a freestyle rap verse and some a cappella before diving into the full song.
One of the most stunning performances of the night was a stripped-down version of "What Goes Around… Comes Around." Though he's sung it acoustic a number of times, the dimly lit, harmony-driven rendition was mesmerizing the whole way through.
He Celebrated The Hits And The Deep Cuts
Timberlake's Memphis homecoming may have been a kickoff to "Everything I Thought It Was," but the set list was dedicated to everything fans knew.
From "Senõrita" to "Suit & Tie" to "Can't Stop the Feeling," the 17-song set list consisted of every chart-topping or beloved hit in Timberlake's catalog. He also showed love to some of his star-studded collabs, singing his verse of Jay-Z's "Holy Grail" and jamming to his Three 6 Mafia/Timbaland team-up "Chop Me Up" and his part of 50 Cent's "Ayo Technology" during a mid-show breakdown with the night's DJ, Andrew Hypes.
Even the *NSYNC fans in the crowd had a moment, as Timberlake pointed out that bandmate Chris Kirkpatrick was in attendance. And though the two didn't sing the group's frenzy-stirring new track, "Better Place," Timberlake did honor his boy band roots by dancing to snippets of "Gone" and "Girlfriend."
He Premiered Not One, But Two New Songs
As Timberlake hinted in his pre-show posts, new music is coming — and, of course, Memphis got the first taste.
A clip of one track, an electro-pop jam titled "No Angels," was played by Hypes as Timberlake bounced along. "Y'all better dance!" the singer declared.
He hopped back up on stage for the other new song, "Selfish," a heartfelt midtempo ballad reminiscent of his 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 hit "Not a Bad Thing." ("Selfish" is seemingly the lead single from the new album, as it's the first song available to pre-save.)
Both songs were more in line with the vibes of 2006's silky, techno-driven FutureSex/Love Sounds and 2013's neo soul-inspired The 20/20 Experience — and judging by the fact that Timberlake didn't play any songs from his most recent LP, 2018's more subdued Man of the Woods, this next project could be just what fans have been waiting for.
As for where Timberlake left things before signing off from Memphis? "I love you so much — we'll see you on tour."
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