Over the last few years, I’ve definitely seen my fair share of shows in every music genre there is. From Muse to Eminem, from The Sounds to Stratovarius, and also the countless international artists that came to Festival d’Été in Quebec City like Metallica, Black Eyed Peas, Iron Maiden, Arcade Fire, Linkin Park, and the list goes on…
Still, after attending all these shows, there is still no one in my mind who can match the stage presence that Jay-Z has. Prior to last Tuesday’s show, I had seen Jay-Z twice; once in Montreal for the Blueprint 3 tour in 2009, and once in Detroit, in 2010, for one of the two Home and Home shows that he was giving with Eminem. Both times, I had been completely hypnotized by his charisma and his ability to crank the stadiums’ ambiance to the next level.
With the Watch The Throne tour stopping in Montreal on November 22nd, my expectations were sky high to see how the addition of Kanye West would up the ante of a Jay-Z show.
Opting for a minimalist stage design overall, the two hip-hop juggernauts started the show each on their respective hydraulic platforms, performing their collaborative single H*A*M with just two follow-spots lighting them. They went on with other songs from their latest album: Who Gon Stop Me, Otis and Gotta Have It. The visual effects became more and more elaborated as the show was progressing. The two hydraulic platforms rose from the ground, revealing LED screens displaying images of sharks and dobermans. An insane amount of laser beams started filling the Bell Centre, and eventually, two screens at the back of the arena started projecting live images of the two rappers performing, as well as some related footage to the songs being played.
Jay-Z and Kanye eventually split and performed some solo singles from their vast repertoire of classics. Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Dirt Off Your Shoulder, Power, 99 Problems, All Falls Down, Hard Knock Life, Jesus Walks and Big Pimpin’ were just a few of the titles that could be heard throughout their 35-plus-songs setlist (see the complete list here). As expected, Jay-Z’s performances were superior to Kanye, but the 34-year-old still did pretty good besides the 42-year-old veteran king of hip-hop.
Once again, I was amazed by the energy that the song U Don’t Know brought to the arena, just like the two previous times I heard Jay-Z perform it. It felt like if the Bell Centre was going to crumble under the loud screams of the crowd.
Hova was not interacting with the crowd as much as the previous times I’d seen him, but the chemistry between Jay-Z, probably the coolest person on the planet, and the mysterious and intense Kanye West, more than made up for it. When the screens showed KW as he looked at the crowd without smiling, his look was terrifying (in a good way of course).
Kanye brought a 10-minute-long emotional phase to the show, rising solo on one of the two lifting stages, dressed in all-red leather clothes, matching the lighting, and started playing the auto-tuned Runaway and Heartless.
The Throne teamed up again for the end of the show, and performed their new hit song N*iggas in Paris not once, not twice, but 5 times in a row, and finished this crazy evening with Jay-Z’s very-appropriate 2003 hit, Encore.
Jay-Z and Kanye proved that their not only watching, but holding the throne.