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Weekend Review: Jay-Z Concert

By Edward Truong

Nov. 8, 2009 11:27 p.m.

For one night only, Pauley Pavilion was transformed from a college sports arena to a major venue, a West Coast Madison Square Garden. Thousands flocked to see Shawn Corey Carter, otherwise known as Hova, otherwise known as Jigga, otherwise known as Jay-Z.

It was a thoroughly impressive experience, one that should be commended for its rigorous, smooth flow: Set changes were astonishingly efficient, and there was even a giant clock on a big screen to countdown until the headliner’s appearance. Like a very hospitable waiter, this was a courteous concert that provided its audience with everything it wanted, and then some.

J. Cole and Wale began the night playing to a half-empty arena with appropriately brief sets, breezing through their short discographies in a concise, speedy manner. Both artists are emerging talents with the potential to become the next Jay-Z, but their sloppy delivery and unimpressive performances were forgettable.

To be fair, Wale did a very good job at reminding the crowd of his album release date, which is this Tuesday, in case you were wondering.

N*E*R*D did a much better job at pumping up the crowd with its trademark hip-hop and rock fusion sound. This was largely because of the stage presence and persona of Pharrell Williams, a bashful but charming performer who knew how make the ladies swoon with his falsetto and the chorus of “Beautiful.”

The group’s newest addition is a female singer, Rhea, who has drawn comparisons to Fergie joining the Black Eyed Peas, but her personality is much more similar to teen rapper Lil’ Mama, minus the sass.

But really, people didn’t come to see the opening act. They came to see the man, the legend, the artist with the most No. 1 album debuts in a row, even beating Elvis Presley.

Jay-Z performed a satisfying blend of his newer works from his latest album, “The Blueprint 3,” starting the show off with a dramatic rendition of “D.O.A (Death of Auto-Tune),” along with virtually every one of his previous hits.

With just as much gratitude as he had swagger, Jay-Z’s interaction with his audience was a pleasure to be a part of, an exchange of his best lyrics and most entertaining songs. His encore was like a crash course through his discography and while he might have sped through parts of it (If you blinked, you completely missed “’03 Bonnie & Clyde.”), he certainly did justice to some of his best works, from “Can I Get A “¦” to “Big Pimpin'” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).”

Accompanied by a rich band with a horn section and two drummers, along with his protégé Memphis Bleek, the atmosphere on stage was an alluring and dynamic sight, only enriched by Jay-Z’s lyrical throwdown.

The LED display was part of a stunningly beautiful backdrop to Jay-Z’s performance, a series of vertical-shaped lines that presented a skyscraper-like view with dazzling video effects and camera views, especially while performing one of his more modern masterpieces, “Empire State of Mind.”

The crowd was also stunned at the surprise appearance of Rihanna, whose recent media appearances have seemed to propelled her popularity, at least within the audience, to new heights. She performed with Jay-Z in their collaborative hit, “Run This Town,” sans Kayne West, and also sang a song from her upcoming album, “Rated R.” Thankfully, she avoided singing her rather downbeat debut single, “Russian Roulette,” and opted for a more dance-friendly hit, which was too new for anybody to sing along with.

As a best-selling artist, Jay-Z has nothing to prove. His talent is clear, his mastery of rap is undeniable and his ability to get an audience of thousands on their feet and entertained, feeding off their energy and devotion, is just another day’s work for H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A.

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Edward Truong
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