Jay-Z has recently become a go-to festival performer, and on Pemberton’s final day he gave the Canadian crowd a set spanning his career (but no Oasis-spoofing jokes, as he did at Glastonbury). With a full band, including a horn section and a percussionist at his command, Jay sometimes doled out his smashes in their entirety (“99 Problems,” “Big Pimpin’ “) and other times teased the crowd with one verse (“Crazy in Love,” “Hard Knock Life”). The MC never missed a step, but he sacrificed intimacy for the chance to be larger than life. “We got through the border okay, so we’ll have to come back,” he said before giving shout outs to audience members: “You in the body paint, that’s some freaky shit.”
A few hours earlier, the N.E.R.D. crew rolled onto the stage almost an hour late. Like many other festivalgoers, they’d been stuck in traffic on the way up. Operating at 60 percent capacity (some N.E.R.D.s were still out there), the group launched defiantly into their set, with Pharrell Williams enlisting the crowd should the Man try to eject them. “If they come up here and try to kick us off,” he rallied, “You have to come up here and kick their ass.” Luckily, no backup was needed, and N.E.R.D. burned through “Brain,” “Killjoy,” “Rockstar” and “Anti-Matter” before inviting as many women as could fit onstage for a medley of “Everyone Nose.” Williams was caressed, pet, and licked (!) before the song was over, but the female appreciation didn’t just come from onstage. “I do not want to be rude,” Williams said, looking out over Pemberton’s finest, “But I’m very appreciative of all the girls showing their tits. Thank you.”
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