Justin Timberlake Plays Great Music - and Matchmaker - in Tel Aviv

It was two hours of pure pleasure with J.T. at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park - even if his repertoire of songs is a little weak.

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
Justin Timberlake at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.
Justin Timberlake at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

Do you remember Rihanna’s fiasco in the park six months ago? The belated arrival, the contempt, the shoddiness, the dip in the Dead Sea just hours before her concert? Of course you do. But now you can forget all about it.

Justin Timberlake did something in Hayarkon Park Wednesday evening that shouldn’t be taken for granted: He restored our faith in corporate pop concerts. He showed that a corporate pop concert can deliver exactly what it promises – or in other words, that it can deliver two hours of pure pleasure. That it can be a flesh-and-blood performance, not one made of plastic.

This humanity was the first pleasant surprise of the concert. It wasn’t the intimacy of an artist who looks straight into his audience’s soul. Justin T. isn’t Leonard Cohen. He’s an artist of the “Boys Just Want to Have Fun” school. And he did have fun, or at least that’s how it looked. And so did we.

As with any concert in the park, there were some bombastic elements. But at bottom, this was a relatively sensitive performance by a soul singer, with instrumentalists and back-up singers who weren’t just there as decoration. In effect, this was a performance more suited to a hall seating 10,000 people than to a park. From my choice spot in the Golden Ring, it worked very well. I hope this quality was also evident at the edges of the park.

The second surprise was that he sings very well. In his albums, he somehow always sounds a bit wimpy. But in this concert, he sung well, in a strong, flexible voice. Perhaps this, too, is because he followed the model of a soul concert.

J.T. connected excellently with his audience, and whether intentionally or not, he was also party to a marriage proposal among the audience. One of the young men in the first row held up a sign saying that if Justin T. would come down from the stage and do a selfie with him and his girlfriend, he would propose to her. And that’s what happened. Mazal tov, J.T. said after returning to the stage, just don’t ruin it.

Justin Timblerlake at Hayarkon Park (Moti Milrod)

The only thing that prevented this concert from being outstanding was the songs themselves. Songwriting isn’t Justin Timberlake’s strong point; he’s an artist of groove and production. Moreover, he’s produced only three albums in total. He doesn’t have a repertoire of 25 good songs under his belt.

But at least the content of the songs was varied: Boy meets girl. Boy wants to get to bed with girl. Boy succeeds.

Which reminds me: In exactly one week, the Rolling Stones are coming.

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