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Pop music: Caught live! Justin Timberlake; SIOBHAN GROGAN at Earls Court, London.


WHILE the rest of pop's aristocracy are easing themselves into the New Year in Barbados, Justin Timberlake knows there's no business like show business for moving on and leaving the shirkers behind.

Despite touring the UK extensively in December, tonight is the first date of another 13 sold-out concerts - and another chance to marvel at the newly-appointed King of Pop.

Unlike his predecessor, Michael Jackson, though, Timberlake knows the value of ordinariness.

He may have millions in the bank and call Cameron Diaz his girlfriend but it's his boy-next-door charm that remains his greatest asset.

So even when he makes his entrance down a fireman's pole in a haze of fireworks to start the brilliant Rock Your Body, he keeps it casual in trainers and an unspectacular checked shirt.

And while the whole show is, naturally, choreographed to within an inch of its life, Timberlake still looks genuinely thrilled.

He can't resist sharing the odd joke with his dancers and backing singers - even asking the audience: "Does anyone out there want to be my girlfriend?"

Despite the events in Las Vegas recently, Justin didn't mention his ex Britney Spears once.

He, for one, obviously has moved on.

Professionally, Justin seems for all the world like someone who just can't believe his luck to be doing this for a living.

His energy is staggering.

Bounding through tracks like Senorita, the infectious buzz of Right For Me and the perfect pop of Like I Love You, Justin barely breaks into a sweat, despite accompanying high-energy routines that have him leaping on to a makeshift bar and dancing on top of a grand piano.

He has all the usual arena concert trickery (pyrotechnics, an enormous crane to carry him over the crowd's heads) but remembers that, ultimately, all eyes are on him so he must deliver.

And if there's only one thing you can guarantee in the unsure world of pop, it's that Justin Timberlake never disappoints.

THE SET LISTRock Your Body, Right For Me, Gone, Girlfriend, Senorita, Still On My Brain, Nothin' Else, Cry Me A River, Let's Take A Ride, Beatbox Interlude, Last Night, I'm Loving It, Take It From Here, Like I Love You
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 11, 2004
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