Review By Ross Bonaime
“Legends of Summer” would seem like a grandiose or boastful title for a concert tour, regardless of who’s touring, but when it’s Jay Z & Justin Timberlake together, performing for several hours almost nothing but nonstop hits, “Legends of Summer” suits them just fine.
M & T Stadium was packed last night, with a line of cars to get to the venue leading several miles down the interstate, and frankly leaving myself and many others afraid that they wouldn’t get to their seats in time for this fantastic duo. Once the show started though, all cares and worries of the hours-long wait were thrown aside for an incredible performance.
Starting with “Holy Grail,” a song that sounds like it was made especially for this tour, Timberlake started with his intro to the screams of thousands of fans, before Jay made his entrance for his verse. The track works much better live, especially when it’s followed by a quick flurry of both of their greatest hits.
If just the sight of Timberlake and Jay Z on the same stage wasn’t enough to get the crowd roaring, Timberlake going into “Rock Your Body” absolutely was. The two tackled the beginning of the night together, with each adding to the other’s songs. One of the most fascinating aspects of this tour was always going to be how the two would work together and the two go together incredibly well. Great moments like having Timberlake singing Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” while Jay’s doing “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” just shows how interesting this collaboration is.
The intro to the night has both Timberlake and Jay bouncing back and forth. Justin gets into “Señorita,” then Jay follows up with “On To The Next One,” featuring Justin on keyboard. Timberlake gets on his guitar for “Like I Love You” as a snake slithers across the huge screens that frame the stage, before he sets the guitar back down for “My Love” and a few of his best Michael Jackson moves, which leads to Jay’s re-entrance into “Big Pimpin” followed by Justin’s “Tunnel Vision.” The amount of gigantic hits between the two is massive, so it quickly becomes obvious that they’re both going to try to knock out as many of these fan-favorites as possible in their huge set.
After an impressive medley, the show splits between the two’s individual hits. Jay Z started this off with nine of his songs, starting with “Jigga What” and “U Don’t Know,” with Timberlake on guitar. Throughout the night, Justin backs up Jay more than the other way around, usually singing a verse here and there, maybe getting behind the guitar or keyboards on occasion.
Jay addresses the crowd, saying that we can turn it up a notch, maybe taking it to 10. Then he says maybe we could go to 20, 30, 50, 60…maybe even 99, to which he obviously goes into “99 Problems” with the entire crowd rapping along, and JT taking on the part of the inquisitive cop in the song and even mashing the song up with “Walk This Way” by playing that song’s guitar part over Jay’s rapping.
Jay ends his individual part with some of his best, “Public Service Announcement” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” before JT comes back out to sing the Bobby “Blue” Bland part on Jay’s final song “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love).”
The third star of the night though is Timberlake’s backing band, The Tennessee Kids, a fourteen piece band dressed in all red, and since the set is filled with black and white imagery, at times the stage almost looks like a overblown White Stripes show, but in a good way. The band adds so much and doesn’t make the show feel like the two are just going along to a recorded track, which is a nice change.
Justin’s part of the evening felt a little more relaxed, with Justin taking his time through his songs. After “Pusher Love Girl,” “Summer Love” and “LoveStoned,” the slight sprinkling of rain started much stronger, to which JT pointed out was perfect timing. He was totally right, as it almost seemed like part of the show, since right after it started he sat behind the piano again for “Until the End of Time” and followed up with “Cry Me A River,” a wonderful song to hear if you’re going to be watching a concert as it rains.
After his latest song “Take Back the Night,” which clearly was already loved by the audience, Justin headed back to the piano for “What Goes Around…/Comes Around,” which Justin lead right into “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and the welcome return of Jay. Justin sneaks off stage as Jay gets into his opening line for “Niggas In Paris,” changing the line to “J can we get married at the mall?” Really, my only disappointment in the evening was not hearing the entire song. Also, it would’ve been great to hear JT do the Kanye line, especially having him utter the eternal question, “What she order? Fish filet?”
Jay then led the crowd into “Tom Ford,” which thousands chanting the designer’s name, which is pretty weird when you really think about it. The stage then went dark to find JT walking along the video screens, singing a cover of “New York, New York” that would bookend Jay’s performance of “Empire State of Mind.” Justin gets off the screen and gets into “Mirrors,” before he sinks into the stage as Jay springs out of the stage for “Run This Town” and “Encore,” which oddly enough wasn’t used FOR the encore. The crowd then gets into chanting “JT + Hova!” because c’mon, they deserve it, as JT ends the set with “SexyBack” before leaving the stage.
When JT and Jay come back for the encore, they come out in suit jackets and bowties draped over their shoulders, glasses of champagne in hand as they walk back out. This clearly leads into “Suit & Tie” as Jay comments on JT’s performance in an incredibly amusing way. To end the night, the two collaborate one last time on “Young Forever,” which Jay dedicated to Trayvon Martin, followed by the two leaving together, once again with their glasses of champagne, laughing and waving goodbye to the crowd.
Just the idea of Justin Timberlake and Jay Z together seems too good to be true. It almost feels like there’s no way the expectations can come close to what would actually come. But Jay and JT together accentuates the best of both of worlds, giving each opportunity to perform their greatest hits, sometimes with great little twists from the other and an incredible stage set up, giving the packed crowd a fantastic summer concert night that easily can be considered legendary.