September 18, 2013

Justin Timberlake was recently presented the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards. While most people were talking about the antics of other performers during the show, I was totally focused on the high-energy choreographed routine paired with challenging live vocals that “JT” delivered. I wasn’t surprised though, since I had seen his impressive “Legends of Summer Tour” just one month prior.

I decided for my birthday this year to go somewhere I had never gone before.  As fate would have it, JT and superstar rapper, Jay-Z, scheduled a tour date in New York City the day after my birthday.  Luckily, my great friend and program manager of Sprint Vision, Brook Horn, realized this trip was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

While Brook and I both grew up in small towns in East Tennessee, we have been able to meet a lot of celebrities and enjoy concerts from A-list acts, courtesy of our jobs in sports entertainment.  It is safe to say that it takes a lot to impress us at this point.

Upon arrival at Yankee Stadium, I knew I was in for a treat. The stage was without a doubt the largest I have ever seen. Each side wing of the stage included a tall video screen. The lighting grid and the speaker stacks revealed to me that this was a high budget production.

As the sun set, a DJ kept us entertained.  There was no opening act – we were all there to see only one person! Finally around 9 p.m., the lights went out and JT and Jay-Z arrived onstage.  From the opening song to the last song, the energy never dropped. The flow of the show was quite unpredictable. It was not an hour of JT followed by an hour of Jay-Z.  They mixed it up the entire night so you never knew who was coming up next or when they would be onstage together. Both performers primarily used two adjacent trap doors on the stage for entry and exit. One would come up on the stage as the other disappeared, interacting with each other along the way.

Since the show was set in New York City, we knew that “Empire State of Mind” had to be on the set list.  The song started with JT, lit by a single spotlight, singing a cappella “New York, New York.” As he held the final note of the chorus, the beat of “Empire State of Mind” started. Jay-Z took center stage and delivered a flawless rap with a crowd of New York natives chanting every word with him. As the chorus featuring Alicia Keys began, she slowly walked out from behind the curtain to surprise the crowd and perform the song live with Jay-Z.  The energy went to another level in the stadium!  It was one of those moments that we strive so hard for in this business. The lyrics to the song meant so much more as I looked around and saw the subway come above ground by the stadium, the flights departing from LaGuardia Airport and the sign in the stadium recognizing the Yankees for being 27-time World Series Champions. In that moment, their performance and the surroundings made me want to live in New York City.

I could talk forever about the experiences during this trip, but I typically sum it up with only one word: amazing.  It wasn’t a cheap concert ticket but you can’t put a price on the opportunity to see two of the greatest artists of all time performing together.

– Lauren Livesay

Justin Timberlake, JT, Jay-Z, MTV Video Music Awards, VMAs, Michael Jackson Vanguard Award, Legends of Summer Tour, Sprint Vision, Yankee Stadium, Alicia Keys, New York City, Lauren Livesay