Live Review: Jay-Z & Kanye West @ The O2

Posted: 12/06/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on on Monday 11th June 2012

Watch the Throne, the collaborative album from hip-hop behemoths Jay-Z and Kanye West which dropped last summer, provided everything that a merger between the two should – dramatic and complex melodies, dense production, artful use of samples, and lyrics detailing the materialistic affluence and magnitude of fame that these men revel in on a day-to-day basis. It was unsurprisingly a worldwide smash hit of an album, garnering praise across the board and achieving multi-platinum status. Although Jay-Z and Kanye West have taken drastically different routes to the top – the former a reformed gangster turned business mogul, the latter a middle-class prodigious producer turned performer – both have honed their crafts to achieve incredible solo successes under their diamond-encrusted belts, with the arrogance to go along with it. So, in sharing the limelight – and armed with an arsenal of their collaborative material alongside a lucky-dip into their extensive respective back-catalogues – well, the prospect of Watch The Throne live is a very exciting one.

Revellers were warned to get to the venue early on Friday night – Jay & ‘Ye don’t need a support act, and with the show clocking in at an estimated 2.5 hours the early start was required. But of course, THEY were an hour late. When the house lights finally went to black at 8:45PM, there was a massive surge forward from the bars of The O2 as the opening beats of ‘H.A.M’ kicked in – all out frenzy from the offset, and that is how it stayed. Both clad in head to toe black, with the exception of their glittering jewellery – Jay-Z the epitome of cool delivering slick flows almost effortlessly from behind his shades; Kanye the more excitable of the pair, as exemplified by the profuse sweating from gallivanting around the stage setup. And WHAT a stage setup… A giant American flag, gargantuan screens depicting imagery ranging from jungle creatures to street riots, strobes and lasers cutting the air in every direction – and at the centre of it all two giant projection-bearing hydraulic-powered podiums from which the duo trade rhymes at a height. It all makes for a thrilling show… and that’s before we even get to the music.

Both Jay-Z and Kanye West are capable of selling out arenas such as The O2 on their own merit – put them together, and a jam-packed setlist of hits is a given. Surprising considering the egos involved, there’s no jostling for mic time – it’s a pretty even mix, each respectfully playing backup to the other, and at their best when joining forces for the tracks of Watch The Throne – particularly on ‘That’s My B*tch’ and the powerful ‘No Church in the Wild’. Jay-Z’s trio of ‘Hard Knock Life’, ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’, and an emphatic rendition of the ode to his hometown ‘Empire State of Mind’ – with the capacity crowd filling in for from Alicia Keys on the soaring chorus – dam near lifts the roof off The O2. The only respite comes when West takes to his podium to slow things down with the brilliant ‘Runaway’ from the masterpiece that is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, following up with the robotic vocal stylings of ‘Heartless’, before the trademark Daft Punk sample rings out to herald the arrival of ‘Stronger’ and pick the pace right back up to the max again.

It’s debatable whether the show loses merit due to the lack of presence of live vocals from collaborators such as Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who feature on so much of their studio material – for example, the latter’s incomparable verse on ‘Monster’ – but really, their absence tonight proves irrelevant. So, there’s no Minaj in the house to bring ‘All Of The Lights’ to a close – what do they do? Skip the verse, burst into ‘Big Pimpin’ and move on. It’s high octane, non-stop hip-hop gold from start to finish – and given the level of hysteria that already exudes from crowd it’d be interesting to see what’d happen if the long line of collaborators ever DID join the Watch The Throne live setup.

“Jay’s not ready to leave… and ‘Ye ain’t ready to leave…” As the evening draws to a close, everyone knows what’s coming – there’s only one thing left to do. It’s just so typical of these two to have the audacity to play one song and one song only for their encore – over, and over, and OVER again. As the opening beats of ‘Ni**as In Paris’ kick in against a barrage of strobes the audience verge on losing their collective minds – down on the floor, it’s a case of jump or be jumped upon. That sh*t quite literally CRAY. Five renditions in total – nowhere near the current tour record of eleven – but pretty dam spectacular.

In fact ‘spectacular’ is a word that can be associated with every aspect of Watch The Throne live. The irony of the show is not lost – two of the world’s biggest superstars coming into the eye of a recessional storm to deliver their almost obnoxious brand of braggadocio and charging punters €80 a head for the pleasure (you just had to laugh when Kanye, celebrating his birthday in Dublin, thanked other-half Kim Kardashian for the gift of a Lamborghini) Yet they completely get away with it. Why? Because they’re worth it. They came, they saw, they conquered – and left a very awe-struck and sweaty audience in their wake. Without a doubt one of the greatest live shows, if not THE greatest, that we’ve ever seen. Long live the reigning kings of hip-hop.

  1. […] behemoths Jay Z and Kanye West were responsible for one of the most spectacular shows to hit Ireland in 2012. In fact, it was more like three shows in one, with the spoils from their collaborative album Watch […]

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