Confident, mature, and -- yes -- sexy: The former boy-bander wows EW's Tim Stack at his post-VMAs gig in New York City

By Tim Stack
September 01, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Justin Timberlake and Timbaland: Larry Busacca/

Justin Timberlake’s post-VMAs show

Thursday’s Video Music Awards ended after 11 p.m. in New York, but at approximately 1:20 a.m., the real party began. Fresh off opening the MTV awards show, Justin Timberlake treated an energized crowd of fans and celebrities (Diddy, Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minillo, and Pink were all in attendance) to a ridiculously entertaining show at Roseland Ballroom. It’s been a while since Timberlake last appeared at Roseland for a post-VMA performance, and, having been there back in 2003, I can say that his growth as a musician is apparent — the boy knows how to put on a show!

When the lights finally dimmed and the Inspector Gadget theme song began playing, the audience was visibly confused. But then Timberlake appeared — dapper in a fedora, suit vest, and tie — and the cartoon theme instantly segued into ”Cry Me a River,” which he performed with gleeful mock rage. Throughout the night, Timberlake performed other hits from 2002’s Justified — many of them brilliantly rearranged (”Like I Love You” was reborn with kick-ass electric guitar in lieu of hip-hop beats, for example) — but, with the help of a few surprise guests, he also treated the audience to a taste of his new album, FutureSex/LoveSounds (out Sept. 12).

Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am popped up to assist on ”Damn Girl,” a throwback to ’70s soul and funk; T.I. spat some quality rhymes on ”My Love.” But it wasn’t the guests who made the evening: Timberlake himself moved with the confidence of a true pop star. Especially good: his performance of a new epic jam, ”What Goes Around,” a haunting warning to a lover who burned him. (A word to Cameron Diaz: Don’t mess with JT, or he’ll get his revenge in a very public way.)

Later, Timberlake’s old ‘N Sync bandmate JC Chasez came on stage to perform what appeared to be a new single off his upcoming album, which he and Timberlake collaborated on. It sounded promising but — let’s face it — JC is no JT. After that brief reunion, the revolving door of celebs swung once again, with Timbaland and Three Six Mafia emerging to tackle the hip-hop ”Chop Me Up.” And as 3 a.m. approached, amid screams for ”SexyBack,” Timberlake and Timbaland gave the fans what they wanted with a thumping performance of the hit single. Sexy was indeed brought back, and a star was reborn. A-