On paper, Jay Z and Justin Timberlake are kind of an odd pairing; one is a former drug dealer and the other is a former mouseketeer. Timberlake soared to fame as the member of a boy band while Jay Z became a rap icon by talking about his life on the street. Timberlake can be extremely goofy and funny; Jay Z isn’t necessarily known for his sense of humor. However, it is their differences that make their collaboration so interesting. Timberlake seems to loosen Jay Z up a bit and make him a little less serious while Hova gives JT some street cred and gravitas. Though in theory their partnership might not be obvious, in practice you wind up wondering why they didn’t collaborate sooner.
When the Boys of Summer 12 city stadium tour was announced, I prayed that one of the stops would be at Yankee Stadium, the one venue where I have a little pull in getting tickets. My fear was that they would make their NYC stop at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, since Jay Z has a relationship with the stadium from his days as a partial owner of the Nets. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the tour rolled into the Bronx for a two night stay. I scored tickets for three of my friends and patiently waited for the day of the show to arrive. To say that I was ridiculously excited would be an understatement would be underselling it. Though I had seen Jay Z perform before (back in 2003 with 50 Cent on the Rock the Mic tour), I had never seen Timberlake and anticipated a very fun evening.
I absolutely was not disappointed. If anything, the duo totally exceeded my expectations. That is the most fun that I’ve had at a concert in a very long time.
That is not to say that there weren’t a few hiccups in the evening. Our original plans for getting to the concert were literally derailed by a train derailment in the Bronx. Thankfully no one was hurt, by the ever so convenient Metro North train that we were planning to be on was no longer able to go to Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately we didn’t find that out until we got to the train station in Poughkeepsie. We could still take the train, but would have to get off in Yonkers, take a shuttle bus and then take a subway to the stadium. While that might have been workable, there were too many uncertainties and we were concerned about delays. With more notice we could have possibly figured it all out, but to be safe I piled everyone in my car and made the unexpected drive to the Stadium, hoping not to hit traffic and to get to the stadium before the show starts. My inner control freak was challenged by this sudden change in plans; I hate to be late to anything and my anxiety for the entire drive was high. I didn’t fully relax until we were in our seats. This girl does not like change or having to adjust on the fly. Thankfully we made it there with plenty of time as the show didn’t start until well after the official start time and traffic was fairly minimal. I also was lucky to be with good friends who know me well enough to know I was stressed out and did what they could to calm me down and make me laugh.
The weather also proved to be a challenge; the Northeast has been in the grips of a crazy heat wave and Friday may have been the hottest day of them all. The Weather Channel predicted that with the humidity that it would feel like 104 degrees in the Stadium and they weren’t wrong. Stepping out of my air conditioned car was like stepping into a sauna. I was dripping with sweat before the show even started; even when the sun went down it was still ridiculously uncomfortable. At one point late in the show someone threw a beer and I was only upset that more of it didn’t hit me. That was the coolest I felt all evening.
But even the stress of the unexpected round trip to NYC and the oppressive heat couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. Once the show started, that was all I cared about. Jay Z and Timberlake put on a hell of a show and have such a deep catalogue of hits that it was one awesome song after another. We danced through almost the entire concert; it didn’t matter that the air felt like soup and we were drenched in perspiration. It was like we had an innate need to get up and boogie.
The show started with Jay Z and Timberlake on stage together; they opened with their song “Holy Grail” and then the two of them traded off doing each other’s songs. They have so many great hits that they didn’t even do full versions of many of the songs – they could basically “throw away” “Rock Your Body and “I Just Wanna Love You” early in the show. They had so many other songs to choose from that they could just do a portion of these songs and move on. The songs that they didn’t perform could make up a whole other show. That’s not to say that they didn’t give us our money’s worth; their bench of songs was just so deep that there was no way that they could cover everything. While Jay Z was doing his thing, JT performed backup vocals and played guitar and piano. This somehow surprised me; for whatever reason, I had no idea that Timberlake had any musical talent other than singing. I don’t remember ever seeing him play an instrument before. It’s possible that he wasn’t doing much on guitar, but he was legitimately playing piano. You learn something new every day.
After a prolonged medley of their songs, each performer got the chance to have the stage to himself. Jay Z went first and did a little bit of everything from his long career. He was intense and energetic, but he also looked like he was having a lot of fun up on stage. I was particularly pumped for “99 Problems” and “Clique.” I had hoped that he would do “Show Me What You Got,” which is my unofficial theme song but I knew that was a longshot going in to the show and wasn’t all that disappointed when it didn’t happen. Jay Z was just as good as I remembered him from 2003 when he easily blew 50 Cent out of the water. It was just a phenomenal set and as excited as I was to see Justin Timberlake, I really didn’t want it to end.
Then it was JT’s turn and he was just as entertaining. He brought a slightly different energy, but was as fun as I had hoped he would be. I had The 20/20 Experience on repeat on Spotify for a while, so I was more than well versed with his newest album. He also spanned his solo career, which though much shorter than Jay Z’s still contains an impressive number of hits. I’ve been so focused on his new stuff lately that I had forgotten about some of his older stuff; when the opening notes of “Summer Love” started I was delighted to me reminded of a song that I loved but that has slightly fallen off my radar. He sang and danced around the stage, seemingly without breaking much of a sweat. He slowed it down a bit for a ballad and asked everyone to sit down, which was a much needed reprieve. I didn’t realize just how tired I was until I got a moment to rest. It didn’t last long – one song later we were all back on our feet singing along.
The pair reunited once again for the final part of the show and the hits kept coming. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the evening was the medley of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and “Empire State of Mind.” As a Yankee fan, those songs mean something special to me – Frank’s voice serenades the Stadium after every Yankee win and “Empire State of Mind” was the unofficial theme song of the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankee team. So hearing those two songs performed live in the Stadium in New York City was a really amazing experience for me…….
……and then Alicia Keys made a surprise appearance to sing the chorus and I about lost my mind.
I had a feeling that there would be a special guest making an appearance, but I had no idea who it would be. I had originally hoped that perhaps Mrs. Carter (better known as Beyoncé) might drop in for Jay Z’s hometown show, but a look at her concert calendar showed that she would be in Minnesota (I wonder who was watching Blue Ivy while both mommy and daddy were rocking it out). Kanye was a definite no given his previous temper tantrum about “Suit and Tie,” though that would have been interesting. I’m sure he’s ready to get out of the house for a break from baby North and all things Kardashian. An appearance by Keys didn’t really cross my mind, which in hindsight was kind of dumb. But I’m glad I didn’t see it coming because that made her walking out on stage all the more exciting. It made a special moment even more special. I literally got chills, though in fairness that might have been heat exhaustion. I was less excited when Timberland came out for “Sexy Back” mostly because I didn’t recognize who it was and that song is a lot longer and more repetitive than I remembered. No disrespect to Timberland, but since I had no idea what he looked like prior to the show I just didn’t get that worked up about it.
The night finally came to an end with a joint performance of “Suit and Tie” and “Young Forever,” the latter song dedicated to Trayvon Martin.
Jay Z even donned a suit jacket for this final part of the show, which looked a little funny over what he was wearing. But I tip my hat to his dedication – putting on more layers of clothing was just about the last thing I wanted to do. Despite the heat and my exhaustion I would have been more than content if the show just kept going. Alas, all good things must come to an end it was time for us to begin the pilgrimage back to upstate NY.
Of course, the excitement for the night wasn’t over – in Poughkeepsie I had a run-in with law enforcement after I made a left hand turn out of the gas station. Apparently they really mean what they post on street signs, even if it is 2:30 in the morning and there isn’t another car in sight for miles (other than a police car apparently). I’d never been pulled over before and it wasn’t until it was happening that I realized I really had no idea what the protocol was for this. I edge on the side of politeness and even asked permission to open the compartment so I could get out my registration, which was probably overly cautious. Whatever I did worked, however – after a warning I was on my way back on the road without a ticket and a story to tell about my experience with the po-po in Po-town. When we got back to my apartment around 3:30, I was all ready to take a cool shower and call it a night, but my friend Kristin’s car mysteriously wouldn’t start, so it was time to get back in the car and drive her home – the unanimous decision was that dealing with this could wait until sunrise. After a roundtrip to Scotia and a quick stop at McDonald’s (I realized that I never had dinner), I was finally in my pajamas at 4 am. I haven’t been out this late since the playoffs last year. I am far too old for this.
It was simply an amazing night; for all the additional complications it was well worth it just to get to experience the joint awesomeness of Justin Timberlake and Jay Z. Since they are performing so few dates together, I felt fortunate that I got the chance to see the together live and that I got to share that with some of my favorite people on the planet (even if one of them was complaining that Justin Timberlake got too much stage time – despite the fact that we have photographic evidence that he was boogieing to JT with the rest of us). If you get the chance to see one of their upcoming shows, you should absolutely jump at the chance. This show doesn’t quite break in to my list of top five concert experiences, but it is dang close. JT and Jay Z have amazing chemistry and play off each other tremendously well. To paraphrase the words of the great Shawn Carter “I got 99 problems, but a bad time at the concert ain’t one.”
Rock Your Body
I Just Wanna Love U
I Want You Back (Jackson 5 Cover)
Excuse Me Miss
On to the Next One
Like I Love You
Jigga What, Jigga Who
U Don’t Know
Public Service Announcement
Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)
Heart of the City
Pusher Love Girl
Until the End of Time
Cry Me a River
Take Back the Night
Niggas in Paris
What Goes Around….Comes Around
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
New York, New York/Empire State of Mind
Run This Town
Suit & Tie