How many artists do you know can play the EXACT SAME SONG 5 times in a row at a show and get the crowd more hyped with each successive performance? Not too many, huh? Well, I can offer firsthand testament that it’s exactly what Jay-Z & Kanye West (collectively known as The Throne) did at their sold-out show at the TD Garden in Boston. Even though “Ni**as in Paris” is still rising up the Hot 100 (it’s already parked at #1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart), the crowd rapped along with the playful track as though it was a treasured golden oldie. It was one of the highlights of a surprisingly robust show from two modern-day rap legends.
Switching often between performing individually and as a unit, Jay and ‘Ye ran down a two hour plus set featuring songs from their vast catalog of solo hits, as well as performing Watch The Throne almost in it’s entirety. While there were no special guests lining the stage, the twosome had no problem holding the audience in the palm of their hands. Most of the crowd (myself included) was on their feet for the entire performance.
I’ve gotta say, Jay has come a LONG way since the days of him pacing around the stage with the Roc-A-Fella crew. Maybe a decade of hanging out with Bono (or being married to Beyonce) is what’s done wonders for his stage presence, but despite his his relaxed demeanor and measured cool (I don’t think the man even perspires) , he controlled the audience and at times threatened to overshadow his performing partner. Kanye offered a more theatrical vibe (as well as a more outlandish dress sense, he spent the entire show dressed like a hip-hop version of Russell Crowe in “Gladiator”), but he seemed a little stiff at the beginning of the show. He made up for that later on, skipping across the stage for a spirited version of “Jesus Walks” and throwing himself into an emotional rendition of “All Of The Lights.” Joining together to perform selections from Watch The Throne, in addition to previous collaborations like “Monster” (even recorded, I would’ve loved to have heard Nicki Minaj’s verse), “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” and “Run This Town”, they had to ease into their repartee. For a while, I wondered if the rumors of the two creatively bumping heads were true, and of course there’s Jay’s record of not getting on well with his tour partners. Nevertheless, by the end of the show, when Jay delivered some hilarious commentary on Kanye’s “Gold Digger” and ‘Ye returned the favor by playing the cop role on Jay’s “99 Problems”, any chemistry issues had dissipated and the two legitimately appeared to be having a ball on stage.
I’m so used to going to rock shows lately, so the lack of a full band kinda threw me off (and how awesome would it have been to see Jay and ‘Ye backed by a full band, a la the Childish Gambino show I saw a couple weeks ago?), but the instrumentalists they did have on stage added enough to the mix to make things worthwhile. The Throne members made up for it by utilizing a few neat staging tricks, including ginormous colored cubes that elevated them way above the audience (and would have scared the shit out of me had I been on them.) Nevertheless, most of the load was carried by these two outsize personalities, who had more than enough stage presence to fill the room. Even to this day, there aren’t many hip-hop artists who can deliver a convincing arena show (not even Eminem, the genre’s biggest-selling artist of all time, can rock a stadium without major assistance.) However, with this show, Jay and Kanye proved that they are unquestionably worthy of the throne they’ve decided to occupy.
Set List (based on memory–this isn’t the exact order in which they were performed): H.A.M./Otis (featuring Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness”)/Gotta Have It/Where I’m From/Jigga What?/U Don’t Know/Can’t Tell Me Nothing/All Falls Down/Jesus Walks/Diamonds From Sierra Leone/Monster/Run This Town/Made In America/Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)/Izzo (H.O.V.A.)/New Day/Runaway/Heartless/Public Service Announcement/Empire State Of Mind (featuring Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”)/On To The Next One/Power/Good Life (featuring a bit of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.”)/Stronger/All Of The Lights/Touch The Sky/Big Pimpin’/I Just Wanna Love U (Give It to Me)/Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Gold Digger/99 Problems/No Church In The Wild (featuring Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”)/Lift Off/Ni**as In Paris
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