Before Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, I had never seen a show at B.C. place. When I arrived to my first stadium show, I was told by the first security guard I was to be on the floor, I didn’t believe them as I walked down to the second floor to ask for directions, again, I was sent down to the floor. I didn’t believe it until I was sitting in the B section, looking at a very intricately designed stage. I was surrounded by thousands of seats, the blue sky visible through the new and improved, tax paid roof of the heart of B.C. entertainment. The stage was a very vivid blood red, square screens form an optical illusion in the center, instruments from bongo’s to a scarlet piano strategically litter the layers of the stage. For a moment, I was so interested in trying to figure out the stage and how it worked that I was forced back into reality by a tap on the shoulder by the woman next to me, looking up from my notebook where I was sketching the optical illusion the blood red walls created. “Are you doing homework?” she asked, her friends laughed.
“Dressed to the tee, they call me Cassidy” DJ Cassidy starts the party off with a mix of dance songs from the last few decades. The songs ranged from Drake to Guns n Roses, but for me, it was when Cassidy played some Notorious B.I.G. that I stood up to show my appreciation by grooving out a bit. DJ Cassidy did a good job setting up, he didn’t even have to ask for a lot of us to just start dancing to the music, at least half of the stadium was on their feet. The turn table set-up was actually behind me on the floor so I mostly just got a look from behind but the legs of the table are golden, Victorian style,. The theme of the night seems to be red, as DJ Cassidy was mixing under the red glow of the lights, and above a red carpet. He’s rocking an ivory suit with a white barbershop hat. He keeps the crowd engaged by replacing names of other cities in songs with Van city, but as he gets to hit last few songs he loses a lot of the massive audience when transitioning from dubstep to a very slow beat hip hop song. Everyone was on their feet moments later though, when two figures appeared on the stage on either side. The party has begun.
The blood red walls I had jotted down on my notebook are revealed to be LED screens, as JT and Jay-Z start their set off, they portraying the Magna Carta sculpture scene. Justin Timberlake rocks in a black fedora while Jay-Z lays it down with the New York Nets backwards snapback, proving once again that no matter where you go, “you are what you are playah”. As the show rolls on, both of our proclaimed Legends of the Summer gets their own chance to have the audience sing along to their best and favorite songs. The optical illusion LED screens are like their own performance, showing images that go with songs, from a snake slithering, getting bigger as it crawls from square to square, to water droplets on a puddle for the infamous Justin Timberlake song: “Cry Me A River”, to a blazing fire that was so bright it seemed real for the more recent hit, “99 Problems”.
I wouldn’t say either of our MC’s was more over with the audience, but Jay-Z got us to be louder, that’s for sure. However, watching Justin Timberlake dance around on stage, picking up whatever instrument he see fit from the keyboard to the electric guitar, he was having fun, and showing just how talented he is. JT does not show any more age today than when he was just starting out. If anything he’s just more confident and more talented. Jay-Z should not be sold short either as he strings words together better than a beat poet, dropping lyrics far beyond where my tongue got twisted, true rapid fire lyrics. We throw up an ocean of Rock-A-Fella Diamonds to show our respect for the hip hop god. The dynamic duo before us present us with tremendous range that still feels natural despite drastic changes in the transition from a Jay-Z song, to a Justin Timberlake song. JT, being the more energetic of the two, will run from one end of the stage to the other, making sure nobody is left out. At one point in fact, he danced from one end to the other. Justin Timberlake’s sets felt more like a cabaret feeling, while Jay-Z maintained the hip hop bobbing, and they swapped constantly so it always felt fresh, the set list is a well-planned flow of the new and old hits of the suit and tie rocking masters.
Jay-Z and JT come back together for “New York”, giving me an experience that alone is worth the cost of admission. Justin Timberlake starts singing “New York, New York” on stage right with a spotlight on him, his voice showing no weakness at all from the hour of entertainment beforehand, Justin hit amazing notes as he passionately sings the legendary Frank Sinatra hit. All of a sudden, Jay-Z’s “New York” kicks in, and anyone that had sat down from exhaustion is now on their feet. Rain begins to fall from the sky above the stadium through the open roof as the sun set in Vancouver, our heat wave and flawless month of sun is over, but it doesn’t get to us, this is the peak of the night. Everyone sings the chorus, so loud in fact that Jay-Z could let the audience sing a majority of the song. When Jay-Z finished his dedication to the city that raised him, Justin Timberlake is now on stage left, he finished his with a bang, dragging the last note out longer than any of us.
After singing the recent hit, “Mirrors”, JT stands on center stage, beginning to descend as if part of a magic trick, next to where JT once was is now Jay-Z for his solo time. Using elevated pads for these last transitions was awesome, especially when Jay-Z switched back with Justin saying “Go get ‘em JT” for the song I first thought was performed by a female when I heard it on the radio in high school Spanish, “Bringing Sexy Back”. Now JT got his chance to let the audience sing a majority of one of his songs. People stood on their folding chairs as they belted out how they too were bringing sexy back. For the finale, JT goes down via the elevator pad, while the band continues to jam out to the sexy back beat.
The house is dark, black as the night outside. The band is silent, but the crowd is loud, screaming for more. Lights hit center stage where Jay-Z and JT come down the staircase in the middle in their suits for the song that inspired this spectacular night, “Suit & Tie”. Both are also holding glasses of champagne, however, only JT drinks from his. JT has a dishevelled bowtie with his suit, while Jay-Z continues to rock the bling he is synonymous for. We have reached our last song when Jay-Z dedicated it to Trayvon Martin, the young man who’s tragic story of a hate crime ending his life, proving that racism is still alive in today’s day and age, the song is “Forever Young”. The sea of fans respond with waving cell phones and lighters, lighting the tremendous stadium as if it were daytime, or as most people refer to, the place lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s an amazing experience to be on the floor and look around at the mass of people united in a mutual respect for a worthy cause, great music, and a spectacular night.
The sea of humanity floods out into the streets of downtown Vancouver to join another from the Festival of Lights like a weather system. Despite the fact that I have been on my feet since DJ Cassidy decided to play my favorite song to smoke to, “Juicy”, I am able to weave through people consistently and make it home quite swiftly. The show may be over, but I’m still feeling the effects, running through it all in my head, all the elements that came together so well to create the stadium experience. Everything from the light show and stage design to the summer legends on the stage culminated together for the best show I’ve seen thus far, and my very first stadium show. Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake need to be seen to be fully believed, and they put it all on the floor tonight.