x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Justin Timberlake wows 20,000-strong crowd at Abu Dhabi’s du Arena

Thousands of fans descended on Yas Island for the former 'N Sync star's 20/20 Experience World Tour, which made its only Middle East stop in Abu Dhabi.

Justin Timberlake takes to stage at du Arena, Abu Dhabi on Friday night. Christopher Pike / The National
Justin Timberlake takes to stage at du Arena, Abu Dhabi on Friday night. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // After hosting the world’s biggest rock band, The Rolling Stones, in February, on Friday night it was time for the globe’s biggest pop star to entertain the crowds at du Arena in the capital with a rousing show.

More than 20,000 fans packed into the Yas Island venue for the return of Justin Timberlake and his eye-popping 20/20 Experience World Tour.

Kicking off just after 9pm, the show began with the star descending a staircase, to the sound of shrieks from the crowd. His large backing band, The Tennessee Kids, boasted more than a dozen members, including four backing vocalists and a horn section.

Dressed in black shirt and baggy shorts, courtesy of designer Neil Barrett, Timberlake thrust himself on to the stage and delved into the sensual opener, Pusher Love Girl.

The American star then returned to his acclaimed 2002 debut solo album, Justified, and its hit single, Rock Your Body.

Joined by six dancers, he twirled and sashayed across the stage, recalling his glory days as a member of the boyband ‘N Sync.

Clapping along with the crowd, he promised the du Arena that “he was here to party”. That was music to the ears of the throngs of excited fans who had flocked to Yas Island for the show, his second in the capital after performing at the Emirates Palace in 2007.

Huge queues had formed before the gates opened at the venue, with crowds cheering when they were finally unlocked at 7pm.

“I’ve liked Justin Timberlake since I was about 14, I think,” said Shashank Sridharan, 22, from India. “His music is great — he’s got great music sense.

“More than that, I also respect him because he is a bit of an entrepreneur. I think it’ll be a great show.”

“I was so excited to see him,” said 13-year-old Abu Dhabi resident Melis, from Turkey. “I’ve liked him for five years. His songs are amazing. I really love them. This is the first time I’ve seen him.

“I have not heard his new songs, but the old ones are amazing.”

It was no surprise that Timberlake particularly popular with the ladies in the crowd.

“We are all so excited and we have been waiting for him since the beginning of the year,” said Sara, a 17-year-old Emirati.

Asked what she likes the most about JT, she replied: “His sexy back, of course.”

“I love him, he’s so cool,” said Basma Taher, 16, from Lebanon, who travelled to the capital from Dubai for the concert.

“I can’t believe I am seeing him, I have always wanted to see him. I want him to play Cry Me A River. It’s my favourite song of all time.

“Du Arena is amazing for this. There are so many people, it’s great. A lot of my friends are jealous because they couldn’t come.”

Last night’s show was the 69th date on Timberlake’s mammoth world tour, which will include 120 concerts in total.

It kicked off in New York in November, before heading to Europe. The Abu Dhabi gig was his only date in the Middle East.

sasaeed@thenational.ae

ksinclair@thenational.ae

• Read Saeed Saeed’s full review in tomorrow’s Arts & Life section.