If you happen to live in the tri-state area you would have to live under a rock that was buried deep beneath the surface of the Earth in order to be naïve about the opening of the Barclay Center, and the man that is opening this new centerpiece of Brooklyn with a string of 8 concerts in a row. Many may find that overkill, 7 too many concerts possibly, but to fans of Jay Z and hip-hop it is hard to see this event as anything but historic.
Regardless of your feelings about Jay Z, about his wife, his money, his opinions (i.e. his recent beef with the OWS movement), or his countless entrepreneurial endeavors it is impossible to not be impressed with his ascent. This 8 show Barclays christening can now easily be seen as the pinnacle of his esteemed career; a career that includes headlining both The Glastonbury Festival and Coachella, selling out multiple Yankee Stadium shows with prompt ease, numerous legendary Madison Square Garden gigs, being one half of the illustrious Watch The Throne duo with Kanye West and rocking a worldwide tour in support of the album, and even a stunning evening at Carnegie Hall. ‘560 State Street (Jay’s old “stash spot” within a stones throw of the freshly erected venue) to The Barclays Center’ is the new ‘Marcy to Madison Square’.
All 8 shows sold out in less than 1 hour. Breathe that in for a minute.
Those who scored tickets and attended the concerts, which culminated this past Saturday, were treated to a celebration and reminded often what that celebration was about. Not for one moment could you forget exactly where you were as the week was all about Brooklyn, and putting into context the new facilities place in the borough’s rich history. To start the show each night a video was projected upon the stage backdrop, a backdrop reminiscent of The Luxor in Las Vegas, displaying prominent Brooklyn landmarks and noteworthy people from the last 200 years. Roy Ayer’s “We Live in Brooklyn, Baby” accompanied this sequence, which transitioned into the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” which morphed into Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Brooklyn Zoo,” and then Jay emerged from the shadows declaring immediately that we were all from Brooklyn on this night. The crowd noise was deafening and the night had begun.
Clad in a black Brooklyn Nets jersey (# 4 of course) and lid Jay Z put his heart and soul into each and every show. Each performance was, democratically, a carbon copy of the last with a few exceptions (On the first night Big Daddy Kane, a hip-hop pioneer and Brooklyn citizen, performed during the encore. Jay Z left the stage to allow him to perform a 3 song set solo and the people in the crowd gave Kane the respect he doesn’t always get. Memphis Bleek – Jay’s hype man – came out on another occasion and Beyonce helped close out the occupancy joining Jay multiple times on night 8). The song selection for each evening was essentially a variation of the following:
Where I’m From
Brooklyn Go Hard
Kick in the Door (Biggie tribute)
Juicy (Biggie tribute)
U Don’t Know
Run This Town
Empire State of Mind
On to the Next One
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
I Just Wanna Love U
Can I Live?
Jigga My N—-
Jigga What, Jigga Who
Hard Knock Life
Heart of the City
What More Can I Say?
Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)
Best of Me, Pt. 2
Money Ain’t a Thing
Money, Cash, Hoes
Now, this is the set that Jay Z has been polishing and manicuring with finesse over the last couple of years. This fine tuned set list, with heavy hitters pulled from his vast catalogue where Jay rhymes over beats from Premier, Timbaland, the Neptunes, Just Blaze, Kanye, amongst others, is what you can expect when you sign on to see Mr. Carter. Along with The Roc Boys, his band, Jay Z easily puts on the most entertaining spectacle in hip-hop, more of a rock show than anything.
This wasn’t only a chance for Jay to show off his massive archive of bangers to 18,000 people 8 nights straight but also an opportunity to get nostalgic and share some feelings about where he has come from and where he is. Although these remarks were canned in that the same statements were made each evening in the same faux-improvisational tone, they did appear heartfelt and sincere. Jay spoke about reaching for one’s dreams and believing that the impossible can be made possible, and that his rise from rags to riches is an example of this. He proclaimed that each and every one of us has “genius-level talent” that we are capable of. He even took the time to defend his minority stake of the Nets “Don’t let them diminish your accomplishment or dim your shine.” “I ain’t no different from anybody here tonight,” he declared. These pep talks were peppered throughout the night strategically.
With a show infused with only minimal guest appearances Jay roc’d the house for the duration of his Barclay occupancy. It was about him, about the part of town that birthed him and the respect he has for it. In the end it was an 8-show run to celebrate the organic base that Brooklyn cultivates and the creation of a building constructed for that borough and its residents. From the minute the lights went down we were welcome guests in Jay Z’s new home and in his borough, and Jay didn’t disappoint.
On the 8th and final night, as the concert drew to a close, Beyonce joined Jay Z on stage to bring the curtain down on history with the heartfelt “Young Forever” (“Of course I had to let BK touch the stage in BK”). Beyonce looked stunning in skin-tight black leather pants and a motorcycle jacket and the crowd was obviously overjoyed she joined the party. The King and Queen of Brooklyn, for this evening, performed with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces as lighters and cell phones illuminated the venue. They brought the house down. And that kid from Marcy, from “where they ball and breed rhyme stars” and “where we call the cops the A-Team
cause they hop out of vans and spray things” did his borough proud. A hat (Nets, of course) tip to the man.