Jay-Z/Kanye West vs. Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake

Posted: July 19, 2013 in Hip-Hop, Live Music, Pop, Rap
Tags: , , , ,

Being an obsessive music fan gives me the pleasure of spending all my “fun money” on concerts. I’ve seen yet-to-be discovered bands, legends, personal favourites and bands you’ll probably never hear of again. This past week, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake (aka JT) kicked off their Legends of Summer Tour. In 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye West also did a combined tour called Watch the Throne (WTT.) I saw both. Here’s how they held up.

Watch the Throne

Kanye West. This tour fell at an unstable time for Kanye West. It was after the 2009 interrupting-Taylor-Swift-on-stage incident, but before his hooking up with Kim Kardashian. I wouldn’t say Kanye was falling, more like beginning his downward spiral. It was obvious in his performance: he wore a leather kilt with leather pants for most of the show and though his rhymes weren’t bad, they were far from stellar. He was more like a lost kid on stage, and when it was time for his solo performance, he used auto-tune for a vast majority of it – including “Heartless” and “Stronger” – and totally brought the energy down by ranting about romance and trying to give the crowd a pep talk on love.

Jay-Z. What can I say? He destroyed Kanye with his solo performance. Flawless flow, never missing a lyric, even when he went a cappella. He gave the crowd exactly what they wanted with “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” His rhymes were tight on all his tracks and without him the concert would have been barely average. A true professional. Not sure when he will ever peak because he seems to always be on his way up.

Jay-Z/Kanye. Together they were on fire. Jay-Z was clearly bringing up Kanye’s game but they fed off each other incredibly well. They contributed to each others’ tracks, had a conversation through their own tracks – going from “Big Pimpin'” to “Gold Digger” to “99 Problems.” Their dynamic worked, though they also had the advantage of having combined forces on an entire album, giving them plenty of material to perform together; it seemed like a much more cohesive show. Oh and every encore featured several repetitions of “In Paris.”

Legends of Summer.

Justin Timberlake. As a performer, he’s pretty versatile: he sings (obviously,) dances, plays piano, electric and acoustic guitars. You don’t have to enjoy his music, but you can’t deny that he’s got it going on. He loves the stage, he plays it up like he’s been doing it since he was a teenager (wait…) He always knows where the camera is and when to use his sexiness to his advantage. He started off strong playing classics like “Senorita,” “Like I Love You” and “My Love.” He was entertaining but in the middle of the show he did the unthinkable: he lulled. It was a pretty long set with mid-tempo songs, mostly new and therefore unfamiliar to most of the crowd. At the end of the already tranquil set, he decided a slow jam would be the way to go. Yawn. However he eventually brought his game back later on with an explosive rendition of “Cry Me a River,” followed by “Mirrors” and crowd-pleaser “SexyBack.” I wouldn’t exactly classify him as a “Legend” just yet, and I’m pretty sure he’s starting to peak.

Jay-Z. What can I say? Again, flawless flow. Had the crowd on their feet, singing along to “Jigga What, Jigga Who,” “Public Service Announcement” and the Linkin Park version of “Encore.” The only slight against him: his performance was pretty identical to Watch the Throne. Don’t get me wrong, he was fantastic to watch, but it’s like I’d already seen it.

Jay-Z/JT. Since they represent different genres, a successful dynamic was much harder to establish. They started off with their collaborative track “Holy Grail”and managed to mix some of their individual tracks into each other in smooth arrangements, going from “I Just Wanna Love You” to “Rock Your Body.” On several of Jay-Z’s tracks, JT played guitar or piano as his back up, and Jay-Z provided some grunting during some of JT’s tracks. They performed their other collaborative track “Suit and Tie” while drinking champagne (which I think was supposed to be cool, but was super lame instead.) They saved the best for last and ended off with JT singing a part from Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” to lead into Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind;” as well as JT singing the chorus to Jay-Z’s “Young Forever,”dedicating it to Trayvon Martin.

Variables.

Crowd. For Watch the Throne, everyone there was a rap/hip-hop fan. Whether it was Kanye or Jay-Z on stage, they were feeling it. For Legends of Summer, it was half and half. JT fans were bored during Jay-Z sets and vice versa. It made the show seem a lot more disjointed, and the energy kept going up and down. I was most entertained when they were performing together, but there just wasn’t enough of it.

Venue. Skydome/Rogers Centre is not a good concert venue, it’s just too damn big. When the stage is sequestered to one side of the baseball diamond, unless you’re sitting in the first 10 rows you can’t see much. You can’t get as engrossed in the music and there are just way too many distractions around preventing you from concentrating on the show. It was also 40 degrees in there which was good for nobody, especially when JT’s elbows are glistening on the large screen. The ACC is smaller and the way the stage was set up – one on each side to share or use solo – made it much easier to follow what was going on. It also enabled them to interact better being face to face as opposed to side by side.

Final Thoughts.

Overall, I’d have to say the Legends of Summer Tour was better, by a hair. Jay-Z was the best performer all around, but JT edged out Kanye West. Though his song selection may not have been the best, he performed them well. Kanye just seemed like he was somewhere else. If you’re looking for a Jay-Z show, be prepared to sit through a lot of JT. If you’re looking for a JT show, you should probably wait for his upcoming solo tour.

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