At this point in my blogging career, there’s no need to describe situations as “surreal.” They aren’t, so using the word is hyperbole. Not to say that they aren’t unique and that doing this hasn’t afforded its share of opportunities that I know I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. If Jay could trip a referee @ MSG, I could have effortlessly reached out and tripped him up on Friday (thanks Laura @ 360).
There are no secrets on what to expect @ a Jay show. After a decade plus years in the game, a couple of film presentations of his stage performance and, most recently, the Fuse show, the rabbit is out of the hat. What may not be expected or can’t be experienced from afar is the level of energy, both from the main attraction and the crowd. Using the oft-compared Jordan analysis, Jay is far from “old Wizards MJ,” the one whose knee cartilage had taken away the spring in his step. At a few weeks shy of celebrating his 40th birthday and on what would be the last stop on the current leg of this tour, Shawn Carter performs as if he’s the leader of the one the Bulls three-peat squads, a man who’s had enough time being the center of attention that he’s perfected pacing himself and waving the wand to hold the crowd’s attention for however long he chooses.
Apply some of those same sentiments to BP3. Being one of the initial naysayers, it took me more than a few listens to “get” the album. Once I did, I was dismayed that others hadn’t. But being amongst a packed arena of those who do get it cements the idea that it is, in fact, a great album. Note the volume (particularly the level of bass) of the crowd singing the chorus to “Run This Town,” the show’s opening number, and recognize the connection the album has made. That same level of audience participation was maintained throughout, leaving this crowd participant winded but pleased by the end.
Backed by a The Roc Boys — his personalized band composed of brass, keys, guitars and percussion…oh yeah, a DJ named Neil — Jay tore through song after song. Relentlessly. Aside from the band, his only assistance came from the ever-present Bleek playing hypeman for roughly half of the show, Roc Nation signee Bridget Kelly standing in wonderfully (both physically & vocally) for Alicia Keys on “Empire State Of Mind” and J. Cole coming through for the clap-starter, “A Star Is Born.” Peaks? Easy choices had to be the now-anthem “Empire State Of Mind” and heavy metal-infused “U Don’t Know,” which left the venue rocking.
The only time I kicked myself was after the show. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be Drake, “watching Hov’s show embarrassed to pull my camera out.” I was fine during the show. Then after, Neil gave me a call & asked that I come by to meet the band. Located on a seldom traveled side street, the five-star establishment had none of the traffic one would suppose came with “rap stars” being in town. No crowds or autograph seekers. I stepped into the lobby and, no more than three minutes later, the elevator bell chimed and five people stepped off.
Thinking it was Neil, I glanced up from my Blackberry. I noticed those same big ass glasses that I’d seen on stage earlier in the night. I paused. Swanky establishment, far too cool to be acting starstruck, I hesitated on pulling out my camera once I realized it was Hov. Then again, “Fuck it, it’s Hov,” figuring it would make a helluva show & tell picture for my kid to take to school. So I fumbled in my pocket to pull out my “just in case” point-and-shoot Canon…only to realize he was safely tucked away in the backseat of the black SUV parked curbside & promptly whisked away.
Dah well, I’ve seen him a couple of times. I’m sure our paths will cross again. I simply don’t see the old guy slowing down any time soon.
– Shouts to Wale & J. Cole, who both put on solid performances and did not disappoint. Since we’ve spent so much time covering them & their live shows, I chose not to revisit them in this piece but that’s not to discredit them in the least.
– Shouts to Neil & all the Roc Boys, each of whom has a backstory that I hope to get & recount here one day soon.