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Justin Timberlake: Out of SYNC, or Timber-Fake?

Justin Timberlake | Billy Preston, Sam Moore, Bob Schieffer, Mel Sachs

Justin Timberlake: Out of Sync, or Timber-Fake?

On a night when MTV put on its annual freak show — and gained terrible reviews from not only critics but fans alike — it seemed only appropriate that their last best hope of an artist staged an after-show concert to promote his new, monotonous album.

Justin Timberlake, who’s only 25 but at this point seems like he’s 60, played the Roseland Ballroom in New York City this morning. The show was scheduled for midnight, but came off around 1:30 a.m. in a swirl of disorganization.

This probably had something to do with the fact that his overpowered agent is also simultaneously handling the tricky comeback of Janet Jackson and that his publicist was at the Venice Film Festival with Ben Affleck. That left the planning to Timberlake’s record company, Jive, whose name suits them to a T.

I should tell you that Roseland was jam-packed by the time Timberlake hit the stage wearing, for some reason, a little black Charlie Chaplin-type bowler and a black vest over a white shirt.

There was a scarcity of celebrities in the house — try just Sean "Diddy" Combs, who also sported a similar hat, and Ivanka Trump, daughter of you know who.

If Timberlake’s Hollywood girlfriend, Cameron Diaz, or any of her pals were in the house, it was the best-kept secret in the room.

The show was designed to promote the former NSYNC star’s new album, "FutureSounds/Love Sexy," which hits stores Sept. 12.

Like Beyonce’s "B'Day" and Jessica Simpson’s "A Public Affair," this new album by a contemporary pop singer sounds like it was made in some distant corporate factory full of pounding beats and pre-ordered screeching.

The songs, like the ones that were cited on Wednesday at BMI’s Urban Awards, were written by committees.

Justin also has the disadvantage of trying to appear as a musician rather than simply a singer. This is too bad, because his voice is terrific. He’s developed a really great R&B falsetto, supple enough to take on a couple of well-arranged Philly soul-like numbers and match the vivid rhythm section of his tight, well-constructed 12-piece band.

But he tries too hard, simulating keyboard playing that feels unconvincing, considering that two more players are hidden in the dark confines of the band.

And when he tries to play acoustic guitar, Timberlake has a habit of turning his back to the crowd or standing at an angle where his hands are hidden from view.

Meanwhile, two other guitarists flail away with gusto. Is Justin faking it, using the instruments as a prop? You’d almost think so from the way the show is staged.

He kicked off the proceedings with a medley of his 2002 hit “Cry Me a River” that included the wildly successful pop star giving the crowd a two-fisted middle finger salute. He’s angry, you understand.

After following with another song from his previous “Justified” album — "Senorita" featuring the Black Eyed PeasWill.i.am — he warned his fans, “We’re going to do new stuff, and if you don’t like, F-you.” The masochistic audience cheered him.

Timberlake is smart enough to include a lot of real hip-hoppers in his show to lend an air of authenticity.

Imagine if Pat Boone, rather than simply ripping off Little Richard, had toured back in the day with the “Tutti Frutti” singer and featured Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley. That’s the concept Timberlake goes for, and his guest stars — producer Timbaland, rapper T.I. King and Three Mafia Six, and on the coming album, the amazing Charlie Wilson — don’t mind the attention.

In each case, they actually make the show come alive, and they can probably feel it. Still, you’d be better off buying their albums if you want to hear the real thing.

The other surprise guest of the night was Timberlake’s former NSYNC buddy J.C. Chasez, whose solo number was a generous gesture on the part of Justin.

Chasez’s song was unexpectedly strong, and nearly stole the show from Timberlake for its energy and straight-on vocal power.

In the end, though Timberlake’s fans — lots and lots of girls of all shapes and sizes — love him no matter what. They sing along to his single “SexyBack” even though it has no melody, and they swoon as if he’s a modern-day Frank Sinatra at the Paramount. When “Future Love/Love Sexy” is released, that’s all that matters.

'Beautiful' Sound for Billy; Katie's Touch

Tomorrow would have been the late singer Billy Preston’s 60th birthday. To commemorate it, “Soul Man” Sam Moore is asking radio stations to play his new version of Preston’s song “You Are So Beautiful” — with Eric Clapton on guitar and Billy kicking off the vocals — at noon EST.

Preston wrote the song, so his estate gets the royalty. But it also salutes the “Fifth Beatle” in a way that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has never done.

The track is on Sam’s new “Overnight Sensational” album, chosen last week by Parade magazine as one of their “Picks.” And look for Moore on this Sunday’s "FOX and Friends," where he’ll be performing live with his band …

That was a nice touch last night on the "CBS Evening News" when Katie Couric gave a tribute to departing anchor Bob Schieffer. Sometimes nice guys finish first, and that was the case with Schieffer. He waited 40 years for a chance to anchor the news, and when his time came he did it with panache and integrity …

I was saddened to read about the death of flamboyant defense attorney Mel Sachs, of pancreatic cancer. He was 60. Listen, no one will forget Mel, who was a dapper dresser and a charismatic, iconic New York figure. They indeed broke the mold when Sachs was created, and his departure leaves a void. He will be sorely missed …