Friday, February 26, 2010

Jay-Z Live At New Orleans Arena Concert Review

As reported by Keith Spera at The Times-Picayune

The James Bond theme music preceded Jay-Z's arrival on stage at a full New Orleans Arena Thursday night (February 25). Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter is arguably the black Bond. He possessed sufficient charm, style, strength and means to marry Beyonce, among the most desired women on the planet, and, with a spy's discretion, refused to blab about it in public.

Carter long ago graduated from New York's mean streets to its penthouses. Like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, he has built an empire of music and fashion -- but is far better on the microphone.

How much better? Jay-Z conceivably could record the first meaningful rap concert album. Traditionally, "live" rap consists of an MC spitting verses over pre-recorded tracks. But on his current tour for "The Blueprint 3," Jay is backed by a 10-piece band: Drums, percussion, two keyboards, guitar, bass, three horns and a DJ.

The difference between rapping to tracks and rapping to a band is the difference between pro wrestling and boxing. The urgency and unpredictability of the latter generates the electricity.

A black-clad Jay opened with the anthemic "Run This Town," which he accomplished even before saluting the Saints on their Super Bowl victory. His flow cut like a diamond, equally sharp and hard.

An alto sax snaked through "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)." Just when I started to think the hard-working drummer could use a bit more syncopated stutter, he brought the funk to "I Just Wanna Love You." Bridget Kelly, a flesh-and-blood backing singer, even filled in for Alicia Keys on "Empire State of Mind."

For the snazzy stage backdrop, video towers formed an ever-changing skyline. They depicted massive stacks of Marshall amps -- with booming subwoofers -- for "99 Problems."

Memphis Bleek functioned as Jay's hype man. Opening act Trey Songz guested on "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)." Jay and his band took a break while Young Jeezy delivered his own 30-minute set. Jeezy brought a wild-eyed swagger to bear, but the "make some noise" exhortations of his DJ were no substitute for live musicians.

Jay returned to rap the Katrina-themed "Minority Report" a cappella ("helicopter swooped down just to get a scoop through his telescopic lens/but he didn't scoop you " poor kids, just cause they was poor kids/left 'em on they porches, same ol' story in New Orleans").

He saluted President Barack Obama and urged the prison-bound Lil Wayne to hold his head up. (He might have directed a similar shout-out at another New Orleans rapper. Earlier Thursday, St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputies busted Juvenile for pot possession.)

Toward the evening's conclusion, he took time to point out and thank individual fans for their support: "I don't take any of you for granted."

He invited one young woman to join him. A form-fitting black mini-dress and spiked high heels are not conducive to climbing over four rows of seats. But Lyiena McMillan, a 25-year-old aspiring singer and rapper from New Orleans, would not be denied.

When Jay-Z performed at the New Orleans Arena in 2004, she found her way on stage; now she wanted an encore. So after Jay-Z helped her gingerly navigate a subway-style grating at the edge of the stage, she squared off on "Song Cry," a profession of love normally sung from his perspective.

With his blessing, McMillan took over, wailing successive lines with increasing confidence. In place of the lyric "so now we travel first class " never in bunches, just me and you," she freestyled, "not with Beyonce, just me and you."

That's the sort of showbiz chutzpah and ambition Jay-Z can appreciate.

More fan shot video below.

Jay-Z's BP3 2010 Tour dates:

Feb 27 Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena
Feb 28 Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum Complex
Mar 02 New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
Mar 03 Washington, DC - Verizon Center
Mar 05 Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun
Mar 06 East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
Mar 07 Norfolk, VA - Scope Arena
Mar 11 Boston, MA - TD Garden
Mar 12 Uniondale, NY - Nassau Coliseum
Mar 14 Detroit, MI - The Palace of Auburn Hills
Mar 16 Pittsburgh, PA - Mellon Arena
Mar 18 Chicago, IL - United Center
Mar 19 St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center
Mar 20 Indianapolis, IN - Conseco Fieldhouse
Mar 22 Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
Mar 24 San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion
Mar 26 Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center

(video courtesy of shawnleblanc49, primovideo1

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