The crowds that typically fill M&T Bank Stadium cheer for the team in purple and black as they try to subdue the opponent on the green gridiron. However, on Thursday night the home team of the evening whore black and white and displayed a very different kind of prowess on a stage awash in red.
Jay Z and Justin Timberlake's 12-city co-headlining tour dubbed The Legends of the Summer arrived in Baltimore on a less-than-perfect weather day, which featured claps of thunder and thick dark clouds that hovered as the doors opened at 7:00 p.m.
In fact, many concertgoers were greeted with the residue of a recent rain shower as they arrived at their seats, but the mood was anything but damp as DJ Cassidy unleashed a relentless onslaught of dance music that lead right up to the 9:20 pm start of the main event.
Starting at opposite sides of the stage Justin and Jay Z kicked off the show with "Holy Grail," which is the lead song from the Brooklyn rapper's latest Billboard chart-topping album, Magna Carta... Holy Grail. The song starts with Justin beautifully singing over a sparse piano arrangement as the tension slowly builds in the song then Jay Z comes in with his full-voiced verse as the beat drops. Now side-by-side in the center of the stage Jay Z and Justin rock back and forth with everyone in the stadium on their feet doing the same. The Tennessee Kids band adorned in all red energetically and deftly transitioned the two artists through a hand full of their hits at the outset including Justin's "Give It To Me, Rock Your Body" then Jay Z's "I Just Wanna Love U." The Tennessee Kids are anything but your step on two and hit your musical cue backup band. Their talent was showcased early on in the concert as Justin and Jay Z launched into an original "I Want You Back" Michael Jackson interlude and tribute. The Tennessee Kids recreated the 1969 Jackson 5 classic as Justin sang the choirs and Jay Z summoned the crowd to thrust two fingers in the air for the late great entertainment icon.
Jay Z and Justin spent a sizeable block of the concert on the stage alone. They integrated new material alongside tried and true songs, which frankly, for both artists generated the louder crowd responses throughout the evening. It was special to see both interact with the blended audience and with each other. For instance a particularly lucky recent graduate with a homemade sign received a shout out from both Jay Z and Justin at different times during the show. Justin improvised by rapping parts of his songs and Jay Z PG'd a handful of lyrics that did not compromise the integrity of the message. Both musicians recognize that this joint venture put them in front of each other's audience and reasonable considerations were made to ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone.
There is a sensible critique that The Legends of the Summer tour is more a marketing room creation than a true musical collaboration. For those that believe that to be fact, you will not find a counter argument here. Jay Z and Justin Timberlake have created exactly two songs together, the aforementioned "Holy Grail" and "Suit and Tie." Both appear on each other's current chart topping albums that were released ahead of this tour that precedes larger world tours that Jay Z and Justin will begin this coming fall. What I can tell you is I saw just as many people of all creeds and backgrounds wearing Mrs. Timberlake shirts as I saw wearing Brooklyn Nets hats and they all were singing or rapping along with the Tennessee Kid and the Brooklyn Boy. 50 summers removed from the March on Washington -- that occurred less than an hour away from where the concert was held -- and partially through one of the most racially divisive summers in recent memory it seems less than important where this idea originated. Boardroom or Studio, I don't know if it the impetus matters behind the multicultural and intergenerational meeting that occurred on Thursday evening. There are several reasons why Memphis born Justin and Brooklyn born Shawn will never know what it is like to walk in one another's shoes.
Nevertheless, we were all on one accord. As Justin and Jay Z closed out another sold out show, they ask the crowd (to use the same phones they used to Instagram pictures and post Facebook updates) to light up the Baltimore sky in tribute to fallen Florida teen Trayvon Martin as the two performed Jay Z's "Forever Young." Not obviously to our racial dynamics, but through recognition they inspired hope.
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