First impressions: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z at the Rose Bowl

Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

Tennessee-born singer/actor/Mouseketeer/showman Justin Timberlake and his Brooklyn hard-knock compadre Jay-Z converged at the Rose Bowl on Sunday night for Vegas-style bombast, and over nearly 150 minutes tossed off hundreds of lines, dozens of verses and a feast of joyous choruses that the thousands knew by heart.

With only a few pauses for breath and/or wardrobe changes, the two, teaming up for the Southern California stop on a 10-city American tour dubbed the Legends of the Summer, played most of what you wanted to hear and a few things that they maybe could have skipped. But tell that to the masses, who lapped up all the two stars and Timberlake's fantastic band the Tennessee Kids had to offer.

A full review will arrive shortly, but for now here are a few highlights from a night that saw 90,000 or so people chanting words made famous by two titans.

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1. Los Angeles chauffeurs and drivers had a lucrative, if frustrating, evening in Pasadena. The traffic jams were to be expected, but the sheer volume of stretch limos, cabs and town cars had West Pasadena looking like Staples before a Lakers playoff game. Traffic crawled, and medical marijuana smoke billowed from car windows.

2. Stealing a number from the White Stripes playbook, the Legends tour had a red-and-black-themed light show, with jumbo screens projecting huge images of the Men of the Hour. The band wore red, JT and Jay-Z stuck to black and white. They each wore suits for "Suit and Tie," but Jay-Z, of course, wore a glistening gold rope instead of a tie. As a pure spectacle, The concert was hard to top -- though it wasn't as impressive as U2's stage setup at the Bowl in '09. Still, it provided ample bang for the buck.

3. The Tennessee Kids are a smoking live band, a dozen-plus musicians on brass, beats, percussion, guitars, keyboards and samples who sounded as practiced as James Brown's famously tight Famous Flames. Whether the disco of "LoveStoned," the buoyant, surprising highlight "Pusher Love Girl" (from Timberlake's excellent recent album "The 20/20 Experience) or the brand new conga-and-horn breakdown, "Take Back the Night," the band flowed through the shifts with perfection.

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4. For his part, Jay-Z made the Kids work, moving through bits and pieces of jams including "99 Problems," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "Encore" and the new "Tom Ford." Proving that he's learned a lot since his failed tour with another superstar, R. Kelly (which disintegrated midway through due to clashing egos), Jay graciously allowed Timberlake to run the night, ceding just enough control make it a virtually flawless collaborative night. (Though Jay Z did seem to forget some words to "Tom Ford" -- he called for the band to start it over.)

5. For the final song before the encore, Timberlake invited hotshot producer Timbaland onstage for a turn on "SexyBack." The classic, influential mid-00s R&B jam that nudged the genre further toward dance music, was produced by Timbaland, and features his trademark grunts. He grunted more Sunday, and introduced the bridges and choruses. Wearing red leather pants, the Virginia Beach track master strutted slowly across the stage, urging his partner -- and the entire Rose Bowl -- along. 

Again, check back later for a full assessment. 


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