Jay-Z, Roundhouse, London
Monday 21 September 2009
For Jay-Z, 2008's Glastonbury stunt was just the prelude, a cocky act of clout intended to broaden the rapper's clientele in the way it seemed only white rockers could.
The success of that show came down to what he became famous for – the omnipotence of his songs, often bristling with stellar production, witty rhymes and always sounding 10 times more supreme when backed by a band. Last night, he chose the intimacy of Camden's Roundhouse to re-affirm the acclaim and it's obviously a smart ploy to keep the fans close and connected.
As a clock on stage counts down to his arrival, the anticipation is palpable. The mainly male crowd roars, instantaneously raising their diamonds in the air as Jay-Z strolls on to the stage at the stroke of 10.25pm and launches straight into "DOA (Death of Autotune)". This is swiftly wrapped up with pleasantries, as he thanks the crowd of a gig that sold out in 20 seconds.
Follow-up "U Don't Know" accompanied by sidekick Memphis Bleek, is a ferocious, heavy-metal slap that storms around the venue, then it's the classic "Roc Boys", greeted by another round of ecstatic applause.
What instantly stands out is Jay-Z's charisma and charm. He leans heavily on these qualities when he performs, rather than dabbling in choreography. So far, the only minor concern is that while he's frontloaded his rocky set with his greatest hits there's very little chit-chat. It never hurts to share a bit of banter when you have a new album to shift. The Blueprint 3's mission seems to be to assert the rapper in the upper echelons of musical credibility and, while it has flaws, it still rocks with wit-fuelled lyrics of condescending pomp.
Jay-Z's one shortcoming is that he falls into the trap of going through the motions. Still, in spite of the methodical order, you can't deny the power of a good hip-hop song or the occasional surprise, such as a prolonged spin of Oasis's "Wonderwall".
He opts for more good oldies in the final quarter, such as "Money Ain't a Thang", "Excuse Me Miss" and "Lucifer". In "Big Pimpin'" he's not as cock-sure as he used to be. Rather he's courteous, explaining that he hoped to give the crowd their £70's worth.
It might not have been the most mind-blowing of shows, but it has undoubtedly been worth it.
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