Justin Timberlake and Jay Z love Boston, and Boston loves them back
With their Legends of the Summer tour, Justin Timberlake and Jay Z brought more local love to Fenway Park than any other tour in recent memory.
Normally a performer will give a “What’s up, Boston?” or wear some sort of sports team paraphernalia — the worst offense in recent memory was Wolfgang Van Halen putting a red sock on the headstock of his bass guitar— and Jay Z and JT did express their love for Boston in these ways, (Jay Z began the proceedings by announcing, “Boston’s ready to party, tonight, I see!”) but they continued to lay it on thick throughout the evening.
In most instances it worked, and it showed a dedication to making each city special on the tour. During Timberlake’s “Lovestoned,” the singer amended his lyrics from “She looks like a model, except she’s got a little more ass” (a great line, by the way) to “except she’s got that Boston ass.” During Jay Z’s “99 Problems,” the DJ worked in a sample of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”
In the “a bit much” category, Timberlake gave a few too many 617 area code shout-outs (a friend in his contact list must still have a Boston phone number?) and more than one of his leather guitar straps had “Boston Strong” imprinted on it.
Together, they tastefully dedicated the final song of the evening, Jay Z’s “Young Forever,” to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. The only irony of all of this is that Jay Z let his “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” pass without commentary. Or is it just obscure knowledge that alleged bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev quoted that track in a tweet on the day of the bombings? Or heck, maybe he was quoting the song that Jay Z sampled: Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.”
But this city-specific love was just a backdrop to what was undoubtedly the show of the summer. For the most part, these two disparate performers overcame the biggest obstacles of a show like this: pacing and integrating types of music that don’t always work with each other. The only instance where it didn’t quite work was during a seven-song stretch where Jay Z left the stage (does it really take that long to change into another Novum Praecepta T-shirt?) During this time, JT totally owned the stage, his million-piece band giving him plenty of room to showcase his dance moves. Sonically, the band have a lot in common with Prince’s New Power Generation. But the tangent meant a shock to the system when Jay Z returned to the stage for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” Jay Z’s absence was probably felt because JT often stayed on the stage and made himself useful during Jay Z’s solo material.
But for the most part, the pair played well together, JT often singing the vocal lines that would have otherwise been samples during Jay Z’s songs, and Jay Z rapping on Timberlake’s hits. As JT sings in the brilliant show opener, Jay Z’s “Holy Grail,” “It’s amazing I’m in this maze with you.” He could have well been singing that to Jay Z. Because it really is amazing that this all works. (Sidenote: Dear all contemporary pop singers, please stop using the word “amazing.” It worked for Bruno Mars, but that adjective has an expiration date.)
Other show highlights included a rock version of JT’s “Sexy Back” and Jay Z’s “Run This Town,” the latter of which could have proved to be the defining anthem for the pair’s two-night stint in Boston.