Justin Timberlake’s unstoppable 20/20 Experience returns to Philadelphia for a third encore performance.
Justin Timberlake performing at Los Angeles’s Staples Center this summer.
When Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience World Tour hits the Wells Fargo Center on December 17, it will be the third time that the 33-year-old lyric tenor has played that venue within a one-year period. If you count his Lincoln Financial Field show with Jay Z for their Legends of the Summer tour, that’s four times Philadelphia audiences will have fallen under his spell. That’s a lot of JT.
It’s no secret that when the one-time Mouseketeer and ex-‘N Sync member went solo with 2002’s Justified, he went big. Following a move into acting—he has starred in Alpha Dog, the Oscar-winning The Social Network, and, most recently, the Coen Brothers’ folk music fantasy Inside Llewyn Davis—Timberlake recorded the New Wave-y FutureSex/LoveSounds and guested on albums for Beyoncé. He’s also made a serious name for himself as a comic sketch performer on Saturday Night Live—of his three Emmys, one is for music, the others for his goofball antics
“Most celebrities are known for being an actor or a singer or a host,” says Jared Fallon, program director at Philly’s Q102, who has watched Timberlake’s solo hits, from “Cry Me a River” to “Suit & Tie,” top Q’s charts. “Timberlake found a way to connect and be accepted in multiple avenues of entertainment.” Fallon adds that Timberlake has been carrying his fan base with him throughout his 15-plus-year career. “It’s common to have teen fans outgrow their passion for some superstars, but many of Justin’s fans have stayed with him.”
Timberlake’s music incorporates elements of The Sound of Philadelphia, making him a fan favorite of hometown audiences. Here, the megastar during the London stop of his 20/20 tour in April.
Kal Rudman, famed publisher of The Friday Morning Quarterback, the New Jersey–based bible of international record sales and radio play, gives a more historical impression of Timberlake’s longevity. “Every generation has a superstar who became one while they were young, and Timberlake was the hot male ‘tween’ on The Mickey Mouse Club,” notes Rudman. “His talents since then—plus major-league charisma—have not only sustained but have exploded to seismic proportions. And his exposure with Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live and now The Tonight Show is strategically unstoppable.”
There’s history and theory, and then there’s practical application. Ike Richman, the vice president of public relations at Comcast-Spectacor, watches over the Wells Fargo Center like a hawk and knows well the inner workings of what goes on and who goes where. For his money, he says, Timberlake is gold. “I met him many times throughout the years, and always found him to be hilarious, the most charming man,” says Richman. “He’s the modern-day Sinatra.”
When it comes to Timberlake’s success with local audiences, Richman believes that both volumes of The 20/20 Experience are soaked in The Sound of Philadelphia—“they have a lot of classic Gamble & Huff vibes, and our hometown crowds recognize that”—in addition to Timberlake’s traditional mix of pop, rock, and hip-hop. That diversity makes him capable of the series of sell-outs he has enjoyed this year. “Bruce Springsteen could do it. Billy Joel could do six sell-outs in a row, due to his history here,” says Richman. Yet Timberlake has the edge over both, because he appeals to every generation. “Moms, grandmoms, boys, girls. Everyone knows who he is. He’s the ultimate entertainer.” Wednesday, December 17, at 8 pm, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 Broad St., 215-336-3600