Watch The Throne – Jay-Z and Kanye West, O2 Arena, London

 

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The Independent Culture

“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.

Setlist:

H•A•M

Who Gon' Stop Me

Otis

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

Flashing Lights

Jesus Walks

Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)

Public Service Announcement (Interlude)

U Don't Know

Run This Town

Monster

Power/Power Remix

New Day

Hard Knock Life (The Ghetto Anthem)

Izzo (H.O.V.A.)

Empire State of Mind

Runaway

Heartless

Stronger

On to the Next One

Dirt Off Your Shoulder

I Just Wanna Love U (Give it to Me)

That's My Bitch

Good Life

Touch the Sky

All of the Lights

Big Pimpin'

Gold Digger

99 Problems

No Church in the Wild

Lift Off (Interlude)

Niggas in Paris

Niggas in Paris

Encore:

Niggas in Paris

Niggas in Paris 

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