When Jay Z and Justin Timberlake announced their “Legends of the Summer” stadium tour in February, it seemed like a shrewd business decision--putting arguably the commercial kings of hip-hop and pop/R&B together for a short, expensive tour. It suddenly gave another meaning to "being on their 'suit and tie' [bleep]" too: They were not just hobnobbing musicians in black ties by night but savvy brand managers in sharp business suits by day.
The tour predictably has been an insane success, garnering both sellouts and critical praise, and Monday night at Soldier Field was just as huge. Ticket prices were high, starting at $60 with fees and reaching up to about $300. In this case, though, fans got what they paid for, as the veteran pair offered tremendous energy and showmanship.
Timberlake led off the concert, standing stage right on a massive cherry-red platform, singing his falsetto introduction from Jay's "Holy Grail" before Jay stepped onstage. The place exploded.
The duo worked together for about the first half-hour, then split into individual sets before joining up again. JT’s band The Tennessee Kids donned matching outfits and aided the pair for the entire night, featuring a quartet of backup singers, a rock-band set and horns.
Together, there were some novel moments, like Timberlake lending Jay a hook for "Heart of the City" or playing the cop on "99 Problems." Jay still played big brother here, charging through some of rap's most timeless hooks with a beaming presence. Like R. Kelly at Sunday's Pitchfork, it's sometimes easy to forget how many enduring songs Jay has.
Not all the transitions worked well for Timberlake during the team effort. Jay sometimes had nowhere to go during JT songs, and the rapper’s juggernaut flow was not easily followed by Timberlake's slower grooves.
JT was better when Jay was absent and there was no need to bend songs to work with a partner. "Cry Me a River" and "Mirrors" had the aisles flooded with dancing, and JT ditching his audience sing-alongs to belt the songs out all himself was a much better call. He was at this best when he grooved to the lusty vengeance of "What Goes Around" or the epic "Sexy Back," along with a few other "FutureSex" staples.
But while Justin reached for more new cuts ("Take Back the Night"), Jay Z simply blasted his way through classics, rocking to anthems like "Hard Knock Life" and "Big Pimpin." With something like 60,000 Roc diamonds in the air, he commanded the crowd masterfully. "Empire State of Mind" bore the loudest, grandest moments of the night, despite romanticizing that place that’s not Chicago.
Justin's new album received more attention than Jay's, from which he pulled only two songs.
This was only the tour's third show, and its magnitude alone was incredible despite the pair not always being in lockstep. The splendor of their closing "Suit and Tie" performance showed that will change.
Adam Lukach is a RedEye special contributor. @lucheezy
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