Jay Z at the O2, 6th of October 2013
“If you’re having girl problems,” it seems like a long time since Jay Z had any real problems and tonight is no exception. Commanding centre stage for over two hours is no easy task for most people, but for Jay Z you get the feeling he could do it in his sleep. The O2 is not quite sold out, but it’s close and this despite Jay Z touring last year with Kanye West for the ‘Watch the Throne’ tour. This time Jay Z is touring with Timbaland and while there is to be no surprise appearances from Beyonce Z (she did take his surname, right?), this is still one hugely enjoyable show.
Over the course of the evening we get treated to a sprinkling of tracks from the likes of ‘Blueprint’, ‘Blueprint 3’, new album ‘Magna Carta’ and a couple of songs from ‘Watch the Throne’. The crowd really get into the gig when 99 Problems’ unmistakable intro hits. One of the great songs of his back catalogue (not to mention the fantastic Mark Romenek directed video) this is a treat to see live, one where you can really see the entertainer feed off the crowd and vice versa. After that it’s hit after hit with the likes of Big Pimpin’, Dirt Of Your Shoulder and Niggas In Paris all coming in quick succession.
The show is billed as Jay Z featuring Timbaland, but anyone expecting Timbaland to open up as support is to be sorely disappointed. Apart from one break in the main set there is very little of him at all. During this interlude the producer/DJ breaks down some songs (and builds them back up) like Get Your Freak On and Cry me a River to relatively muted applause. It’s not too long until the main man returns and it’s on with the show.
The crowd are particularly electric tonight. Random bursts of Olé, Olé ring out during the down-times of the set. It gets to the stage where Jay Z genuinely seems impressed; he stops his band at one point to get them all to clap the crowd for their enthusiasm. It’s a big love-in really and by the end of the set there are three tri-colour flags on stage, all carefully laid out by the man himself.
Anyone that feels that rap music is something to be kept for CDs and downloads needs to see this man in action. With no hype man (apart from Timbaland, who never leaves his DJ booth) on stage it’s one big space to fill. The band is stacked up vertically making the stage seem almost industrial, lit with minimal yet impressive lighting. Despite the impressive set design, never once do eyes leave Jay Z. His presence is one that holds the entire room in awe and at forty-three years old, few in rap or hip-hop can match. The self-proclaimed “Dublin Boy” is still one of the unmissable rap acts around.
The big finish features Empire State of Mind, Encore and the last song of the evening is Young Forever. No standing ovation was given as no one sat down for the entire evening. As the elder statesman of his genre, Jay Z still leads the way. The songs may not have the nuance and tricks that the newer generation of rappers have, but tonight’s show is a classic example of why he’ll be an integral part of music for as long as he wants to be and a must-see live act for anyone that hasn’t managed to catch him yet.
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Photos: Kieran Frost