For the first stop of Jay Z and Justin Timberlake’s co-headlining Legends of the Summer stadium tour in North American, the pair’s packed-to-the-hilt concert at Toronto’s Rogers Centre before 45,000 people had this remarkable ease about it. There was no one-upmanship, just camaraderie, not competition, two guys that work well together.
PHOTOS: Legends of the Summer Tour
As rehearsed and planned-out as the show no doubt is — how to integrate their material, when to perform solo and when to come together, all the while utilizing their crack 14 18-piece soul/rockband — the two-and-a-half-hour set was smooth and fun and playful and didn’t have that air of my-turn, your-turn. It just seemed natural, almost off the cuff in places, which can happen when a guy can rap and a guy can sing.
After DJ Cassidy got the party started, Timberlake emerged onstage to kick off Jay Z’s Nirvana-infused “Holy Grail,” the lead-off song from the hip hop star’s new album, “Magna Carta…Holy Grail,” on which he’s also featured. Timberlake then got his turn on “Give It To Me,” the Timbaland song he co-wrote and guested on, and his own “Rock Your Body.” And so began the shared single bill, with the two popular music giants taking leads and contributing vocals to each other’s work, as if they had been making music together for years, as part of one big frickin’ band.
Jay Z has always been a masterful rapper, but what Timberlake displayed throughout the night was just how musical he is. His past concerts have so many dancers bounding this way and that, and him joining them, that it’s distracting and takes away from his significant talents: his ability to deliver his soulful and grinding pop tunes as the frontman of an expert band and highlight his own musicianship, playing upright piano, keyboards and electric and acoustic guitar— which he did on some of his songs and some of Jay Z’s.
Timberlake also danced a little bit — he and Jay Z both encouraged the crowd to do the two-step on a few occasions — but it was just to groove to the songs that needed it, not some big choreographed routine. “My Love” got huge cheers of recognition when it began and was given a rocked-out treatment, before Jay-Z came out with some bounce for “Big Pimpin’.”
“You are making us feel right at home,” Jay Z soon told the fans. “We appreciate all your love. But I still think we’re at a seven. We can’t leave here with it being a 7 at the official start of the tour. We gotta turn it all the way up, not to 10, not to 20, not to 30, 40, 50, turn it all the way up to 99,” be concluded, providing the segue into an incendiary version of “99 Problems.”
At this point in the evening, Jay got to showcase some of his own songs solo, with JT offstage, and began by asking “How many people in the audience got Magna Carta? I want to thank you for making it the No. 1 album in Canada, the No. 1 album in the country.” (It also debuted at No. 1 in the U.S.). JT, it should be noted, also has the best-selling album of the year, to date, “The 20/20 Experience.”
Jay then played a handful of his songs, such as “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “PSA” and rousing “Hard Knock Life” before Timberlake sat down at the keys to sing the Bobby Bland “ain’t no love” part of his rap “Heart of the City.” That’s how the night was – each “J” complimenting the other.
Then it was JT’s turn by himself onstage for a bit. He showed some attitude for “Summer Love,” indulged us with dance moves for the “Love Stoned/I think She Knows” interlude, and followed with “Let the Groove Get In,”and what he called “the baby butt spanking new “Take Back the Night”— which turned out to be the only lull in the show.
Jay Z returned just before 11 p.m. and the two closed out the night for the next 45 minutes pretty much alternating spotlights, Jay-Z doing “Song Cry,” Timberlake doing the superb “Cry Me A River” then sitting at the upright piano for “What Goes Around Comes Around” and Jay-Z delivering the well-received “Tom Ford” from Magna Carta.
One of the coolest collabs they did was JT’s crooning a Sinatra-esque “New York New York” to kick off and close Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” — and although his wife Beyonce was in town in the daytime, she was in Chicago that evening for her own show, so was unable to take Alicia Keys’ part, or on “Run This Town” which used Rihanna’s vocals on digital playback (Rihanna was a surprise guest with them in London Sunday evening at Yahoo! Wireless Festival).
When they both came out for their encore, they were snazzed up in black blazers, Jay Z carrying a champagne glass. The song, of course, was Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” which features Jay on The 20/20 Experience. And while they concluded the night by riling up the 45,000 with “make some noise” and how Toronto “deserves” one more song, JT started singing the lines to Alphaville’s “Forever Young” which they dedicated to Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen slain by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday of second-degree murder. Jay Z then took over for his own version of “Young Forever,” the fourth single off 2010’s “The Blueprint 3,” and JT told the stadium to “sing this for Trayvon.”
“Peace and love,” said Jay Z at the end. “We are the legends of summer.”