Watch The Throne – Jay-Z and Kanye West, O2 Arena, London
“I guarantee this will be the greatest concert of your life,” says Kanye West, with typical modesty, at one point in this first London Watch the Throne show. For fans of the pair, he might not be too far off the mark.
When Kanye and Jay-Z - friends, collaborators and contenders for the throne of the kingdom of hip-hop - announced that they would be taking their 2011 collaboration on tour, perhaps the best that fans could expect was a recreation of that album’s brazen, accomplished, glossy production.
What the Watch The Throne tour has turned into, though, is a bicephalous celebration of two of hip-hop’s best back catalogues. That set-up provides the basis for a tag-team approach to proceedings. The show starts with Jay-Z in the middle of the arena on a square, rising stage, Kanye – in a dubious leather pants/skirt combo is on something similar at the stage end. The pair rap “H.A.M” and “Who Gon Stop Me” over a gulf of fans as videos of rottweilers and sharks light the ground beneath their feet.
Then Jay-Z disappears and returns to the main stage for the pair to sing “Otis” – their sample-tastic reworking of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness”. Then - for over two hours - the pair, tag-in and tag-out of the stage. One minute it’s Kanye doing “Jesus Walks” and “Flashing Lights”, the next it’s Jay-Z doing “IZZO (H.O.V.A)” and “Empire State of Mind”.
Both have weaknesses, but the match-up covers for both. Kanye has the better feel for the stadium spectacular. His “spontaneous” stopping of “All The Lights” is actually something he’s done on almost every night on the tour but it adds an air of uncertainty to the slick, pyrotechnic-enhanced set. He’s arguably got the better songs too, with cuts from his stupendous My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy like “Power” and “Monster” providing peaks in the bounteous 39-song set. Jay-Z, on the other hand, is clearly the more accomplished rapper and performer.
Kanye’s five-minute auto-tuned wig-out during “Runaway”, is the evening’s sole flat-note. Most moments are enthralling. No less so than the closing gimmick in which the pair repeat Watch The Throne’s “Niggas In Paris” for as many times as they feel like. London gets four repeats here – which is about par for the tour. It’s a bit daft, but it’s a fun way to end things and, frankly, these monsters of rap can do what they like.
Who Gon' Stop Me
Welcome to the Jungle
Gotta Have It
Where I'm From
Jigga What, Jigga Who (Originator '99)
Can't Tell Me Nothing
All Falls Down
Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)
Public Service Announcement (Interlude)
U Don't Know
Run This Town
Hard Knock Life (The Ghetto Anthem)
Empire State of Mind
On to the Next One
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
I Just Wanna Love U (Give it to Me)
That's My Bitch
Touch the Sky
All of the Lights
No Church in the Wild
Lift Off (Interlude)
Niggas in Paris
Niggas in Paris
Niggas in Paris
Niggas in Paris
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