TEL AVIV — Forty-six thousand screaming fans, 32 hit songs and one surprise marriage proposal were on tap Wednesday night at Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon for Justin Timberlake’s debut concert in Israel.
Timberlake, who was here as part of his 20/20 Experience Tour, is known as a superlative showman, and he made sure not to disappoint in this show. In an event packed with 3-D cutting-edge video effects and rocking dance moves, the singer-actor-comedian treated his Israeli admirers to a fully rounded performance that left little doubt about who, in fact, is the current King of Pop.
The singer hit the stage at 9 p.m. on the dot, exactly one hour after the gates at Park Hayarkon’s massive open-air venue were opened and thousands of young fans, all clad in slinky summerwear and sweating in the heat, began pouring in across the lawn. He opened with “Pusher Love Girl,” his slightly raunchy R&B ode to physical love, and then launched into a two-hour, highly aerobic performance that flitted from pop hits to slower ballads and included an homage set to those other kings of pop, Elvis and Michael Jackson.
Timberlake, who arrived in Israel at 3 a.m. Tuesday night and went straight to the Western Wall accompanied by his wife Jessica Biel, his parents and entourage, told the crowd repeatedly how excited he was to be in Israel and even how he had heard Tel Aviv was a city for lovers. He even threw in a bit of Hebrew, saying “Shalom” at one point, as well as “Yalla Balagan” and a slightly mangled Hebrew version of “I love you all.”
Accompanied by rocking blues and big-band from The Tennessee Kids, his personal 20-piece orchestra, as well as a crew of hard-shaking backup dancers, Timberlake paused to catch his breath at only one point in the show – when a poster from a front-row female fan caught his eye.
“What does that sign say?” he asked her into his microphone, and then read the poster, which said her boyfriend had promised to propose to her if she could get Timberlake to come take a selfie with them.
With the crowd screaming in support and his security scrambling to follow him, Timberlake jumped down off the stage and took a selfie with the couple, then said to the man, “Alright, do it!” And with that, the boyfriend produced a ring, borrowed Timberlake’s microphone to tell his girlfriend that after eight years together it was time to get married, and – in the words of Timberlake’s pal Beyonce – put a ring on it.
Timberlake hadn’t been in Israel long, but he’d quickly picked up on exactly what crowds here love: excellent music, superb dancing, and a shidduch made good.
(Update: The marriage proposal wasn’t really a marriage proposal.)