Justin Timberlake's first live show in five years, a benefit concert staged ahead of the Super Bowl by DirecTV, was a risk.
The former boy bander had retired his microphone in pursuit of an acting career and, eventually, settled into marriage with Jessica Biel.
Safe in the shadows of Beyonce's looming half time show, Timberlake invited 1,000 or so folks to come watch him dust the cobwebs off his dancing shoes and he didn't disappoint.
In a surprisingly long set – benefit concerts, in this case for Shriners Hospitals for Children, typically command only a hit or two from a talent like JT – the singer sang two brand new tracks and sprinkled in his previous material with some clever mashups.
Opening with his first single as a solo artist, "Like I Love You," Timberlake donned a chic black suit, Tom Ford bow tie, and is still rocking the leading man hairstyle he test drove at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
And everyone ate him up.
The DirecTV VIP saw JT fans of all stripes: lovers Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev, funnymen Nick Kroll and Paul Scheer, and Will Ferrell and wife Viveca all staring in awe, dancing in place.
But no one had more fun than Justin. Watching him work the red curtained staged, put up by event guru Chad Hudson, he couldn't stop smirking for his first few numbers. Call it muscle memory.
The set list included "Cry Me A River," "Love Stoned," and an amazing "Rock Your Body" that replaced its bridge with Michael Jackson's "Shake Your Body."
Jay-Z was a surprise guest and joined Justin for "Suit and Tie." The pair had an easy, familiar vibe. Timberlake even trotted out producer Timbaland to close his set with "SexyBack."
Fortunately, cameos, celeb ticket holders, and scores of screaming fans couldn't distract him.
The only criticism we can offer is this: What took you so long? Do what you do best, Justin.
We're giving you an A minus.
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