Monday, June 26, 2006

i am the nicest

Jay-Z performs 'Reasonable Doubt' at Radio City Music Hall
(photo jacked from The Rap Up)

- 3 level stage: Brass up top, ?uest and the Illadelphonics midlevel, full string section foreground with conductors holding baton or mic. All in black or black-tie except the one with the mic. Chandeliers. Lexus.
- I saw the heartbeat and slightly-modified intro being transported from the album to the stage but the Scarface theme-music interpolated into strings caught me out there.
- It was black scarf not a white one.
- The reverse sequencing of songs worked well and adds to Jay’s attempts at getting back to that ‘first song’ which ‘The Black Album’ was supposed to be about but this concert achieved more successfully… and I’m including the encore which had hits from every era. Starting the show in pristine white suit and ending it in T-shirt and jeans made sense. A costume change arc was a concert element not exploited by Hova, unfortunately.
- Damn, Sauce Money, your heft and black suit was working against Hova’s slim, ‘white’ gentleman outfit. This was your moment, duke! Why didn’t you hit CENTER stage!
- The Hustler Symphony Orchestra (including the Illadelphonics) had phenomenal, uh, orchestration. I was with it on the ‘Cashmere Thoughts’ string pluck through the transformation of vocal samples into smooth cello. The volume of sound contributed to the epic-making. It wasn’t about dance beats but the effect was still visceral. This live version of ‘Can I Live’ may have trumped the Isaac Hayes original in my mind. I think?
- The sound Just Blaze provided on ‘Friend or Foe’ was perfect use of a DJ with an orchestra.
- Foxxy’s appearance brought down the house as I expected but it was sad to hear her vocals so off. She looked great and the energy was there… I couldn’t tell if she was getting ahead of the beat because of nerves… or not…
- The faux-fumble feigned by Jay beginning the second verse of ’22 Twos’ may have been a lesson learned from Kane in concert, but waving off the musicians, accompanied only by a screen counting from 1 to 44, as Jay kicked ’44 Fours’ was pure MC originality. It was a moment of well-rehearsed, well-executed drama that Jay doesn’t do much of. He ended the song declaring ‘I am the NICEST!’ and the crowd had to agree. Thanks for reminding us, Jay!
- The added bonus of the musicians working ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ behind the ‘Can I kick it?’ portion of ’22 Twos’ was a multi-layered pleasure.
- Although not feeling the ‘Feelin’ It’ vocals, the extended ending verged into a jazzy big-band sequence that redeemed it.
- The piano introduction for ‘Dead Presidents’ was SOOO necessary.
- Jay handled Biggie’s verses on ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ as if thumbing his nose at anyone questioning his appropriation of BIG-penned verses in the past. One of the biggest audience rap-alongs came when Jay went into Biggie’s freestyle performed with Tupac immortalized by Mr. Cee. ?uest picking up on ODB yelling ‘Brooklyyyn…!’ and brought the Orchestra into the block chords that give ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ it’s off-kilter bass/base.
- By the way, although, ‘Brooknam’ will now be sipping on ‘Don P. forever’ can I knock Jay’s hustle mode as he is still, apparently, ordering ‘Cristal by the bottle’? Mami’s are still on E and he is still ‘drunk off Cris.’
- There was a split second when the audience cheered for who we thought was Mary J. Blige but turned out to be Beyonce. She was the only other performer allowed to dress in white that evening and it looked oddly like their wedding. I prefer the heart that Mary brings to the ‘Hustle’ chorus but I must admit Beyonce made it her own hitting her notes strong and phrasing the hook in a fresh way. The vocal echo effects were there but were less obvious layered with the string arrangements. Bey-Z looked glamorous as fuck. I don’t think they even touched hands.
- The show ended oddly with some weird anti-climax vibe even though ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ was huge. Maybe some of the audience was expecting a full Jay-Z show, y’know, with hits and all. Jay or ?uest must have picked up on that vibe as there was a hasty announcement to ‘not leave, Jay-Z will be back after a ten minute break.’
- The encore was a Flex-like run through hits sometimes not even getting to the vocals before flipping to the next joint. But the heavy and loud version of ‘U Don’t Know’ with Just Blaze and Nirvana video adding to the chaos, was phenomenal, huge, and enough of a reason to by the DVD.
- I had never seen Jay do his sign-language version of ‘Big Pimpin’ as the crowd struggled to complete the verse. But it was cool. Particularly after his most excellent accapella portion of ‘Nigga What.’
- Give Kanye the credit for creating the ultimate hip-hop showstopper ironically called ‘Encore’… Hova! Hova! Hell yeah.