Chicago, IL -- Although I haven't paid to attend a concert in roughly seven years (please, spare me the hate-mail), there are a few high-profile acts I do consider truly worthy of my hard-earned savings. Among the artists on this pocket-sized list is the self-proclaimed "Greatest Rapper Alive," Jay-Z. This past Tuesday, when Hova's currently-running ten-city summer tour made its way to Chicago for a sold-out show at Northerly Island's Charter One Pavilion, the Brooklyn veteran demonstrated exactly why he ranks as a must-see artist.
As we all know, people attend concerts for a wide variety of reasons. Some because their "new" favorite artist is performing or, maybe, because they like to get dressed and boozed up. And when the artist is one as renowned as Mr. Sean Carter, a concert allows the concertgoer to be surrounded by thousands of fans who are just like them: passionate about the music that has shaped their love for a particular genre or generation.
Throughout the opening sets by Fabolous (who didn't perform any unheard material off his forthcoming Loso's Way LP) or Ciara (who has absolutely amazing abs), it wasn't obvious why so many concertgoers had chosen to spend $130 on tickets to the show, but soon after the headliner took the stage, all became clear.
Jay's mastery of crowd control was clear from the opening "la da da da / hey hey hey goodbye" of his current street single, “Death of Auto-Tune.” With a full band and large video screens behind him and childhood friend Memphis Bleek by his side, Jay reeled through his never-ending catalog of hit records, performing classics from nearly every album (and there are a lot) that he has released. Crowd favorites included "Roc Boys," "Can I Live?," "Big Pimpin," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," and "Jigga My N*gga."
As I wrote in my coverage of Jay-Z's Mary J. Blige co-headlined "Heart of the City" tour in April of '08, Jay's music is "the soundtrack to so many lives, which [when performed live] is played out in real time." A year and a few months later, nothing has changed. Where most artists perform a single verse from a record, Jay runs through songs from start to finish. Where most artists come out for a one-song encore, Jay unleashes four more numbers and an a cappella version of the introductory track off his forthcoming Blueprint 3 album. Then again, as we've already established, Jay isn't most artists. Simply put, he is worth more than the price of admission.
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