Jay Z at Toyota Center, 12/19/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker.
December 19, 2013
Jay Z is the king. A few other rappers have enjoyed their time at the top throughout the years, but Hov's been perched upon the throne for the better part of a decade and a half. A handful of others have tried to climb that hill (I'm looking at you, Mr. West), but even if Jigga quit the game today he'd still be No. 1. He's become so much more than that young rapper filling our heads with stories about his Brooklyn youth; he's a true-blue, bona fide superstar. A hip-hop legend, if you will.
And he doesn't need any gimmicks to prove it. His performance at Toyota Center Thursday night proved that to the near-capacity crowd with a blistering set of his best. While Kanye is busy singing his auto-tuned R&B ballads and building mountains, Jay-Z is sticking to what he does best. His two hours onstage didn't feature any dancers or masks or crazy lights, it was just Mr. Knowles-Carter front and center with his words, a microphone and the energy of 20,000 people as his support.
I can't even begin to describe how the Toyota Center felt Thursday. It wasn't the typical concert vibe that I've grown accustomed to at any of our bigger venues. I know this might sound peculiar, but for an arena, the show felt quaint and intimate. Although there were thousands around, it almost felt like an early Jay-Z show in Brooklyn for a big group of his friends rather than a show at a basketball stadium. People were even playing the shell game in the bathroom, swindling suckers for a dime in between songs. Where do you see that besides the streets of New York?
But don't get me wrong, despite the homey feeling throughout the room, the show was a banger. It started hot and ended as the house burnt down, and Jay never let up throughout the entirety. His backing band was simple, yet solid; a drummer, keyboardist and guitarist made up the core, while famed producer and part-time rapper Timbaland was on hand throughout the show providing his skills on the decks and additional keys. The fact that Timbaland is in his backing band is further proof that Hov is king.
As Jay said after "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" ended and the opening beats to "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)," "I've got a million of these," and that almost wasn't an understatement. The jams came as fast as a machine gun, and after he got a few of the new tracks out of the way towards the start of the set, it was the hit parade until the very end.
"99 Problems" was the alarm clock, "Picasso Baby" was the morning jog, "Dead Presidents II" was breakfast and "Tom Ford" was a hot shower. By the time Jay was shouting "Bad Bitch/H-Town/Keep it trill y'all know y'all can't fuck around," the place was wide awake and vigorously throwing their diamonds in the sky.
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