Seeing both Jay Z and Kanye perform on separate occasions, I had been anticipating the day that both tour together in a full set. Though I was excited to get the Watch the Throne album, the reason I really heard about the album was because of the tour. There was no mistake on whether the chicken or the egg came first. The tour was both for me. The energy that I knew would come from this tour was all I needed; they could have sang their entire catalog and chanted whatever the people from Occupy Wall Street are chanting, and I would have been just as excited.
After a busy day of Fashion, press days in NYC and a little bit of shopping at the new Joe Fresh store on Fifth Ave, I take a train from NYC to DC, literally making it in time for the Show. Hopping out of train and into the subway station, I drop by bags off with minutes to spare to get to the Verizon Center. I have learned the hard way that most Jay Z fans arrive all at one time, and the lines to enter the venue will be super long; I remember getting to the John Paul Jones area in Charlottesville to see Jay Z and TI and totally missed Santogold’s opening set because of the in sync arrival of everyone. So needless to say I was a bit worried that we would miss the beginning of the set, as I hadn’t heard of any opening acts. There is always that one time that a show will start exactly when the ticket says it will start… luckily it wasn’t the case with tonight’s show.
Thanks to GQ magazine for posting a behind-the-scenes article online the other day, I already knew there would be at least 40 songs and that the stage may have some crazy dual thing going on, but I tried to only read bits and pieces so that it wouldn’t “spoil my dinner” so to speak. Guessing how a concert begins is such an invigorating experience for me and I love when I get it right. This time, I guessed they would start with “No Church in the Wild,” not because its the first song on the album, but because of the lingering bass line and the dramatic ambiance it can portray.
I was wrong. Lights out, and HAM starts to play, which is a very wise choice as both Kanye and Jay Z have strong verses on the track.
Aside from the opening song, Kanye’s opening look was epic to say the least; Kanye West has on a skirt with leather tights and Nike Air Yeezys! Wow, what a statement to make! When a guy, especially in hip hop, can wear a skirt with a diamond grill in his mouth, you know you have experienced true confidence in oneself. Nothing gay about it, just a dope sense of fashion with the unabashed confidence to pull it off.
Once the music started, it never ended; no breaks, no fluff with dance numbers and piano solos. Just good music. They took us on a journey throughout Watch the Throne, but did not disappoint us true fans with just material from that album. After brief intros of themselves and where they hail from, Jay Z starts his set with a rugged rendition of “Where I’m From” that took everyone back to In My Lifetime, Vol 1. Moments like this continued throughout the set, which visually consisted of a main stage, and a secondary stage – both having huge digital cubes that elevated in the air, making every seat a great view.
Kanye’s rubik’s cube moment was his all red set – minus the skirt – in which he performed his most personal songs, reprising them in the legendary Kanye way. Starting with “Toast,” we all felt his personal reflection of his life and actions during that phase. With all of this red, he couldn’t let it go to waste without singing Heartless, in which ended with a charge to all of us to hold tight to the ones we love. This leads us into a super energetic performance of “Stronger” having everyone I was hoping that we would get a little “Say You Will” but unfortunately it didn’t make on tour this time.
Jay Z, with over a decade of songs under his belt, took us on a journey of our own life’s journey. Each song makes you reflect on where you were when you first heard it on the radio or on CD. First year of college memories came to me when he performed “Big Pimpin” and “Give it to Me”and songs like “Jigga What” and “Can I Get A” took me back to high school parties after the football games. He didn’t give me enough Reasonable Doubt moments, but for a 2 hour show featuring two artists with crazy catalogs. “New Day,” a song that clearly speaks of both artists’ future journeys, was most personal for Jay Z, and judging from how into the song he was, I have to say that despite rumors, I think he and Beyonce are having a boy.
As they began with songs from Watch the Throne, they also ended the show with WTT hits, and finally “No Church in the Wild” comes on and the crowd goes crazy! “Lift Off” was next, but was shortened to the reprise, in which Kanye gets the whole crowd to two step until the ending, which leads us to “N*ggas in Paris” that gets the crowd belligerent not once, but three times! And there was not one moment where there was any energy lost; the song was performed in full three times, and the crowd sang along with the same intensity each time.
If I were to review each song, this post would be about 20 pages printed, so in general, the show never lacked energy, there was no “sit down” point in the full 2 hour set, and, while there were a few songs I would have loved to hear, it was only after I left the concert that I even thought about songs that I missed. I was hoping for a full band accompaniment, but the two DJ sets and one guy who added piano and guitar when needed kept us on our feet, so the live band would have been an added bonus. I was hoping that Kanye would have his “F You Fashion Critics” song that he wrote for me ready to debut at the show, but I guess he hasn’t quite been moved to do so. If not, thats a very mature Kanye move.. and I’m proud of him.
I left the show with an even high appreciation for Kanye’s sense of style. As the concert progressed, so did Kanye’s donning of Givenchy. From the skirt and tights, to the Rottweiler T shirt, to ending with the full Givenchy look from the FW11 campaign ad, he showed that he does have a place in fashion. In frustration, I yelled to him to just stick to music and wearing fashion, because those are two elements that he is totally genius! I just hope he doesn’t influence the wrong person to wear a skirt.. not sure how well that will translate without Grammys and a stage.