LAS VEGAS — When it comes to attracting big names for charity, Justin Timberlake has no trouble. Saturday night in Las Vegas saw the wide reach of JT’s star power, with a diverse lineup of artists from Snoop Dogg to Taylor Swift taking part in his second annual Justin Timberlake & Friends Concert, benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. While last year’s show boasted many onstage collaborations, Justin had high hopes for this year’s event — which included the aforementioned Doggfather and country queen, plus Alicia Keys, TLC, Timbaland, Ciara and Jay Sean.
“There were a lot of acts this year that weren’t able to get here till today, so there weren’t as many collabs as I had in my brain,” Timberlake told MTV News during rehearsals. “But I think that’s always the case, it’s kind of like [when] you do an album and you write, like, 40 songs, and then 12 of them make it. … But still, just having everyone out and getting to see them do their set — there are a couple of things that have never been performed onstage. There’s a new song from [Timbaland] tonight, from his record that we did together. I think Snoop’s doing a new song from his new record. So it’s kinda cool for them too, because it’s like perfect test.
The night saw Justin wearing many hats (including a fedora) — acting as emcee, performer and maestro. He even kept the crowd updated with the Yankees/Angels score in between sets. But the fans were there for music, and they sure got their money’s worth.
Jay Sean kicked off the night’s performances, accompanied by U.K. beatbox champion MC Zani. The duo took a different take on the British singer’s current hit, “Down,” starting off with a beatbox intro and acoustic guitar, until launching into a full version of the song with Justin’s band — which served as the house band for the whole evening.
Next up was Taylor Swift, and Justin assured everyone that there would be no Kanye-style stage crashing on his watch. “Don’t worry, guys, I got security on the sides, so no one can come up and ruin her set,” Timberlake told the crowd.
As soon as Swift hit the opening notes of “You Belong With Me,” she had the crowd on their feet. Her raucous set was full of hair tosses and hip swings, impressive for the silver dress she performed in, dripping with what looked like diamonds. Her set got even more dazzling when she strapped on a shimmery acoustic guitar for “Love Story.”
Justin introduced the next artist as “one of the greatest musicians of my generation.” Alicia Keys then strutted across the stage in a stunning pair of red pumps, and took a seat at her piano to belt out “Doesn’t Mean Anything.” After the song, Alicia addressed the crowd.
“I wanna tell you a little about myself, where I’m from,” she said, launching into the hook from “Empire State of Mind” then going right into “Fallin’,” which sounded even more impressive with the house band’s backup singers. The Mandalay Bay Events Center could barely contain the energy.
For the next performance, JT told the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, asses up, give it up for the one and only, legendary T-L-C!” Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas‘ first performance in six years sent the crowd into a frenzy, as the duo tore through a barrage of hits — “FanMail,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” “What About Your Friends,” “Baby Baby Baby,” “Creep,” “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs.” While founding member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes is no longer with us, her presence was still in the room as her vocals were filled in by live performance footage on the screen.
The next performance brought the night’s first on-stage collaboration. After Justin got the crowd moving to “Señorita,” he welcomed Ciara onstage for “Love Sex Magic.” The crowd stayed on their feet for the rest of Ciara’s set — “Goodies” and “1, 2 Step.”
Next up was Snoop Dogg, who performed “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “What’s My Name” and new single “Gangsta Love.” Continuing the night’s collaborations, Snoop told the crowd, “Since my homeboy Justin asked me to come out here tonight, I’m gonna ask him to come out right now.” The guys broke into “Signs,” doing a little two-step action.
Justin took the reins, jumping into a medly of “Summer” and “Chop Me Up,” with Timbaland coming out to do his verse on “Chop.” Tim stayed on stage for “Give It to Me,” which had girls spilling into the aisles to dance. The duo then broke into the brand-new song that Justin had promised, the title of which they never announced. It features an anthemic chorus with the lyrics “Turn me on now” and a breakdown that repeats “What’s your name?/ What’s your number?/ I’m glad I came, so you can take my order.”
Two hours into the show, it was time for Justin to take over. JT launched into an acrobatic mash-up of hits — both his and other artists’. It started with an acoustic rendition of “Like I Love You,” then transitioned to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” during the “Like I Love You” chorus. Next was Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” mixed with the lyrics of “Cry Me a River,” then going back to the KOL chorus. “Lovestoned” followed, blended with Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”
The night seemingly was coming to an end as Justin sat down at a piano for a heartfelt performance of “What Goes Around … /… Comes Around,” but although he announced it was his last song, he changed his mind.
“I’m in the mood,” he told the Vegas crowd. He shouted to his band to freestyle on the next song, and they settled on “Until the End of Time.”
The show ended just shy of midnight, capping off another successful year for Justin and his charity. Honors are especially due for Justin’s bandmembers, who spent nearly three hours on stage backing up the night’s performers.