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Concert Reviews:
Justin Timberlake and Jay Z live up to their Legends status at Ford Field

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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DETROIT -- Left to their own individual devices, Justin Timberlake and Jay Z are certainly formidable performers.

But in tandem -- as they were on Tuesday night, Aug. 6, when their Legends of the Summer Stadium Tour hit Ford Field -- the two equaled more than the sum of their parts. In a big way.

The revue-style two-hour and 20-minute show was consistently exciting from start to finish, staged with slick precision from the subtle choreography to the flow of the set list and an arresting light show that was visually impactful even at the top and back of the stadium. But the duo also did without many of the usual totems of big pop stage extravaganzas; there were no pyrotechnics, no second stage, no ramps extending onto the Ford Field floor -- not even confetti. Nor were there dancers, save for the members of the 18-piece band and, of course, the tens of thousands who packed the house and sang along to everything from Timberlake's pop-soul hits to Jay Z's iconic rap tracks.

The weight of the show was instead carried, expertly, by the two performers and their abundant song catalogs. And it was a genuinely collaborative affair as Timberlake and Jay Z ping-ponged between each others' material, ripping through more than three dozen songs over the course of the show, frequently guesting on each other's tunes and clearly having a great time having someone to share the load.

They quickly established the tone for the night by emerging on opposite sides of the stage for "Holy Grail," the Timberlake-featuring title track from Jay Z's latest album. As the rapper declared, "Let's turn this whole stadium into a small party!" the duo slid into a mash-up of Timbaland's "Give It To Me" and then Timberlake`s "Rock Your Body" before a bit of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" led into Jay Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," with Timberlake orchestrating the sea of waving arms.

Timberlake, on his first tour in seven years, was clearly the more energized of the pair, in constant motion and mugging deadpan for Jay Z, the band and the crowd as well as playing guitar on the Jay Z songs "U Don't Know" and "99 Problems" and providing piano stabs during "On to the Next One." His own mini-set featured powerhouse performances of "Pusher Love Girl," "Summer Love," "Cry Me a River," "Take Back the Night" and "What Goes Around...Comes Around," and he framed Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind" by crooning the theme form "New York, New York."

The rapper, meanwhile, was his usual steady and powerful self, prowling while Timberlake pranced and delivering a generous sampling of his greatest hits, including "Jigga What, Jigga Who," "Public Service Announcement," "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "N***** in Paris," "Run This Town" and "Encore." Timberlake finished the main set with a high-octane "SexyBack," and he and Jay Z emerged for the encores in black-jacketed finery, toasting the Ford Field crowd with champagne before loping through "Suit & Tie" -- the new Timberlake track that features Jay Z -- and closing with the rapper's anthemic "Young Forever," the stadium lit up by the crowd's cell phones.

Superstars frequently team up for shared tours, but this was truly a case of performers sharing the stage, resulting in a unique and special evening and making a strong case for the best concert of the year so far in these parts.

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