Earlier this week, Memphis-rooted multi-hyphenate — singer, actor, media mogul, Grizzlies part-owner — Justin Timberlake announced he was postponing the first few dates of his much anticipated “The 20/20 Experience” world tour.
While Timberlake’s Nov. 18 show at the FedExForum remains unaffected, the rescheduling of early stops in Montreal and Boston will allow the singer more time to prep what is expected to be a large scale and complex production — and he’ll be fine-tuning the show in the Mid-South. According to multiple sources, Timberlake will be staging rehearsals at Southaven’s Landers Center.
The rehearsals are expected to occupy the venue at various points over the coming days and weeks. Part of that will be for technical setup, and part for the actual performance prep.
Though he’s been spotted in town in recent days, and the Landers Center calendar only has a handful of events scheduled this month, Timberlake’s publicist did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Landers officials, meanwhile, had “no comment.”
Heavy advance work for major tours is not uncommon. Timberlake’s 2007 U.S. tour — which also played the FedExForum — was an elaborately staged affair boasting several high-concept production elements. His forthcoming jaunt is expected to up the ante further in terms of the size and scope of its presentation.
“Most people don’t realize what it takes to build a spectacular show, and I’m sure this is going to be a spectacular show,” says longtime area concert promoter Barry Leff, of Beaver Productions. “You literally have to build everything you see from the ground up: the stage, the video screens, the sound that’s being hung, the lights, all of the production. It’s massive what goes into this kind of tour.”
Leff — who regularly handles major arena events, including Monday night’s Eagles concert — estimates that a show of Timberlake’s size will include a caravan of 20-25 semi trucks, 12-15 buses and between 100-150 people as part of the band, crew and overall operation.
Although a number of big tours frequently do staging and pre-production in Nashville, Timberlake’s decision to prep for the tour in Memphis is somewhat unusual. “This being [Timberlake’s] hometown probably has something to do with it,” says Leff. “I think it’s a unique opportunity and great for the area.”
Leff notes that there are economic benefits to the Timberlake tour party prepping in the area. “You’re talking about a big group of people camping out in a city; you’re talking about hotel rooms, entertainment and economic impact. They have to hire catering, stage hands, security, extra crew of all kinds. You’re putting people to work, and a lot of it is local labor.”
“It probably doesn’t have quite the economic impact of someone filming a movie here for weeks or months, but for a short span, the economic impact is significant.”
The Millington-bred Timberlake returned to music earlier this year after a long hiatus, releasing the first of a two-album set, The 20/20 Experience in March. He followed with a second volume late last month. Both albums topped the Billboard charts.
While reviews for the records (particularly the latter LP) have been somewhat mixed, sales have been brisk: The 20/20 Experience sold nearly a million copies in its first week alone; the second volume followed with a 350,000-plus first week debut. In total, Timberlake has sold nearly three million copies of his new albums this year in the U.S. alone.
Business for the upcoming tour has been booming as well: many, if not most, of the fall dates – including the Memphis show – have sold out well in advance. Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of concert industry trade magazine Pollstar, notes that “even though it doesn’t start until November, it’s going to be one of the biggest tours of the year.”
“They’re already booking double dates in a number of cities into next year,” adds Bongiovanni. “I mean, if you can sell out two shows in Edmonton in January, it’s a very big tour.”
Timberlake, who’s devoted much of his time to his film acting, starred in the recent crime flick “Runner Runner,” alongside Ben Affleck. The picture proved a box office and critical disappointment when it opened earlier this month.
Better results are expected for Timberlake’s next feature role, in the ensemble folk music drama “Inside Llewyn Davis,” from Academy Award-winning filmmakers the Coen Brothers, which opens in December.