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Jay-Z/Kanye West exhaust and entertain at tour kickoff

the-throne-jay-z-kanye-westIt threatened to turn ugly before it even started.

At 8:58 p.m., when a deep voice off-stage announced “two minutes” until showtime, boos, not cheers, filled Philips Arena.

You can’t blame fans for voicing their crankiness when a show with a 7:30 p.m. ticket (a ludicrous possibility for any rap or rock show) still hasn’t started by 9 p.m. And with the PR machine behind the “Watch the Throne” tour keeping any information about opening acts, start times, show setup or anything relevant on the kind of lockdown reserved for the C.I.A., all that the crowd could do was share frustrated eye rolls and sighs.

But Announcer Voice wasn’t lying this time, as the lights dropped at 9 p.m. sharp and red laser beams shot down on two spots – one on a square in front of the main stage and the other on a secondary square by the soundboard.

As the thumping backbeat to “H.A.M.” reverberated through the three-fourths full arena, the two titanic stars of this tour – Jay-Z and Kanye West – faced off from their respective cubes, which rose from the floor into towers of coolness.

The pairing of these mega-rappers (aka Hova and Yeezy) is to hip-hop fans what the joint tours of Elton John and Billy Joel have been over the years to middle-aged suburbanites: Bliss.

And while the opening night of the 32-date jaunt (which played a second date Saturday) wasn’t without quibbles – lousy sound, a slightly bloated set list, video footage that sometimes seemed haphazardly assembled – the bottom line is that the guys unveiled a brisk, hits-filled show that was as exhausting to watch as it was entertaining.

The natural inclination with these marquee couplings is to compare the performers. But it’s the huge differences between Jay-Z and Atlanta-born West that make them amusingly compatible.

Jay lumbers. West glides. Jay is a 100-percent-rock-solid rapper. West is a hybrid rapper and pop singer. Jay looks as if he’d be just as content lounging on his thousand dollar couch in New York as he does on stage. West looks as if his life depends on the adulation he receives from a crowd. Jay’s costume changes consisted of swapping black shirts and swiveling his omnipresent New York Yankees cap. West rotated through three ensembles, usually involving a type of skirt over his pants. (The press was prohibited from taking photos, otherwise you could see for yourselves.)

But when they blended their formidable talents, as on “Otis,” performed against an American flag backdrop with a fiery snap that immediately made you realize THIS would have been the perfect opener, Jay-Z and West were a rather dynamic duo.

Throughout the 2 ½-hour show, the rappers alternately performed together and separately, making the night a rich combination of smashes and new collaborative material from their platinum-selling “Watch the Throne” release.

Backed by three keyboardists/DJs lurking in the shadows of the clean, airy stage accented by a slanted ramp and a couple of rows of flashing amber lights, the pair whipped through “Welcome to the Jungle” – accompanied by disturbing video of a cheetah catching and destroying a gazelle – and “Gotta Have It,” one of numerous songs that spotlighted Jay-Z’s jaw-dropping word-spitting skills.

1189479-kanye-west-jay-z-show-617-409 West injected his trademark drama into ”Jesus Walks,” dancing sideways across the stage and sinking to his knees, while Jay-Z dodged plumes of flames during his “Public Service Announcement.”

Several times during the set, the twosome flashed grins at each other or slung an arm around the other’s shoulder, although West usually followed Jay-Z’s lead with any affectionate movements. Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of “Run This Town” and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in “Monster” as more video of wild animals played behind them.

We know you’re filled with testosterone boys. It’s OK, you can lay off the metaphors a bit.

The only breather – if you can call it that – these two ever took was when they sat on stage for the lulling “New Day,” a poignant rap about fatherhood and learning from mistakes. As the pair sat side-by-side for the introspective song, followed by Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life,” they looked like a couple of buddies sitting on the stoop of a brownstone, swapping stories like childhood friends.

For the next round of solo tunes, Jay-Z smiled his way through his undeniably brilliant “Empire State of Mind,” its liquid beats sending a sizzle through the arena air.

Then it was West’s turn to test-drive the back-of-the-hall cube, which he did for his trio of “Runaway” – complete with unnecessary Auto Tune – “Heartless” and “Stronger.”

While the rising platform, glowing red for West’s spin, was certainly a visual feat, it’s impractical. With zero lighting aside from shards of laser lights, the figure performing could have been Betty White for all anyone could see. It was a cool atmospheric effect for a few minutes, but the squinting became tiresome by West’s second song atop the tower.

But the show is so rapidly paced, even the annoyances passed quickly.

It seemed a natural ending, though, when Jay-Z leaned into the light Latin beat of “Big Pimpin’,” then the lighting shifted to strobes and purple lasers for a raw, stripped version of “Gold Digger,” ending with Jay leaning into Kanye to gave him some “advice” for his gold digger…a humorous segue into “99 Problems.”

At that point, many in the crowd shifted toward the exits, not wanting to get stuck in a post-concert crush, but also fearing an early departure in case one of Atlanta’s celebrity rappers showed up (sorry – no one did).

But Jay-Z and West still had another half an hour to roll through, a trip that spanned “N- in Paris” – during which the crowd, surely tired of standing and dancing, was encouraged to “bounce” – “Made in America,” highlighted by an arena aglow with cell phone lights, and, finally, “Why I Love You.”

It was a muted finale to a show that nailed so many peaks. But maybe that was the point. Maybe Jay-Z and West didn’t want the audience to depart solely on an adrenaline high, but with a little something to chew on.

(Here’s a set list from Friday’s show. Thanks to Goldyn for filling in some blanks for me.)

  • H.A.M.
  • Who Gon Stop Me
  • Otis
  • Welcome to the Jungle
  • Gotta Have It
  • N—- What, N—- Who
  • Can’t Tell Me Nothing
  • Jesus Walks
  • Diamonds from Sierra Leone
  • Public Service Announcement
  • You Don’t Know
  • Run This Town
  • Monster
  • Power
  • Murder to Excellence
  • New Day
  • Hard Knock Life
  • Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
  • Good Life
  • Empire State of Mind
  • Runaway
  • Heartless
  • Stronger
  • On to the Next One
  • Dirt Off Your Shoulder
  • Touch the Sky
  • All of the Lights
  • Big Pimpin’
  • Gold Digger
  • 99 Problems
  • No Church in the Wild
  • Lift Off
  • N—– in Paris
  • Made in America
  • Why I Love You

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene Blog

Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle

Sorry for those who might have had something relevant to say about the concert, but commenting is now closed.

31 comments Add your comment

DaerbIsADweeb

October 29th, 2011
8:45 am

I would take that job for nothing

[...] Concert review by the Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Kapoonka

October 29th, 2011
8:46 am

Hey darb…trust me…white boys and girls are also getting “conned” out of their money. You ding-dong…neither is a thug, and they could buy you and your family with what they have in their shoe. It’s not a “Black” thing..it’s a “music” thing..which at last check was a universal art form. If it’s not your thing..fine.

You actually just clearly illustrated who the “fool” is, and if you look in the mirror you will stare directly into the fool’s eyes. Recognize her/ him..what’s a “darb” anyway? So…Blacks only get money through “questionable means?” ….Wow…what an ignoramus you are. I will send up a special prayer for you tonight because that’s all that will save you if you truly believe the idiotic words you wrote.

TCB

October 29th, 2011
8:51 am

Darb…u still think that way in 2011…REALLY..No matter what u think these are 2 multi-millonares.

Mary

October 29th, 2011
9:49 am

terrible photos

Carter

October 29th, 2011
10:04 am

Thanks for updating your viewers about the concert AJC. I guess this “black fool” will enjoy a good show tonight. By the way AJC, you may want to delete the comment from “Darb”. Surprised someone so ignorant could even spell what they wanted to elaborate. Good thing there is no picture added with these comments.

DEFJAM

October 29th, 2011
10:44 am

Funny dard, how successful black men,and the black culture as a whole can instill fear in ignorant low lifes such as yourself,no one is complaining about all the wealth and affluence that were brought to alot of southern white familys at the hands of slave owners,at the cost of millions of black lives…so get a reality check and realize that yes,there are young successful rich black men in todays society,we can drive our bentleys. live in our mansions.andq belong to our own social clubs,ee create our own jobs and most of all……..WE MIND OUR OWN BUISNESS…get a life loser

IHATENEGATIVEIDIOTS

October 29th, 2011
10:51 am

All of the idiots on this post who can do nothing but hate on two guys that are doing their thing, go kill yourselves…..or better yet get a life and maybe do something for yourself that doesn’t include hating on people that are doing way better than you are….go park your trailer somewhere else….

[...] footage from last night’s show. Otis: … … H.A.M.: … Source: AJC Twitter – [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their delight pity a theatre was apparent as they led a throng by a refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over a heavy, chest-rattling drum in ‘Monster’ as some-more video of furious animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” ? Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” ? Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their delight pity a theatre was apparent as they led a throng by a refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over a heavy, chest-rattling drum in ‘Monster’ as some-more video of furious animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

[...] “Their enjoyment sharing the stage was obvious as they led the crowd through the refrain of ‘Run This Town’ and chanted over the heavy, chest-rattling bass in ‘Monster’ as more video of wild animals played behind them.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]