By Brian "Z" Zisook
They dubbed it the “Heart of the City Tour,” but they could just as easily have titled it “The Endless Hits Tour.” Saturday evening, the longevity of two iconic artists, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige, was on full display for the first of two sold-out dates at the United Center in Chicago. With a combined total of over 70 million albums sold worldwide, their co-headlining bill is without a doubt one of the most impressive national urban tours—ever.
Following 19 tour dates, including grueling treks up and down the east and west coasts and across the southern region, the legendary duo did not disappoint the raucous Chicago crowd as they performed hit after hit for well over two hours.
“We grew up listening to these artists; they’re pairing [for this tour] is just so great,” said Andrea Patterson, who drove three and a half hours from Fort Wayne, Indiana, just to see the show.
Emerging from the top of a high-rise platform, Jay and Mary together kicked off the show with an opening performance of their classic collaboration, “Can’t Knock The Hustle.” With a ten-piece band, several back-up singers and a full violin section, the duo made it clear from the beginning that this would not be your average concert. With the stadium’s capacity crowd screaming in delight by song’s end, the great Hova retreated backstage, making way for Blige to take center stage.
With a sparkling microphone to match her glistening outfit, Blige began her solo set with a portion of “You’re All I Need,” her famous duet with rapper Method Man. From there, Blige would go on to perform various hits from her nine studio albums, including “Real Love,” “Reminisce,” “Be Happy,” and “Love No Limit.” Despite most of the crowd sitting through various sections of Blige’s hour-plus performance, the singer managed to get everyone on their feet by wrapping up her time on stage with more up-beat jams such as “MJB da MVP,” “Dance for Me,” and “Work That,” the first single off her most recent release, “Growing Pains.”
Photos courtesy of Eric Weiler
As the self-proclaimed “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” ended her set and exited via a trapped door on the stage, the man with as many stage names as studio albums reappeared, once again starting his retreat to center stage from a raised platform above the band. “The Roc Boys are in the building,” All Jay had to do was open his mouth and immediately, 20,000 plus fans through-up their Roc-A-Fella diamond signs, pumping them above their heads in homage to a hip-hop legend.
With amazing diction and lyrical precision, the Brooklyn-born MC performed over thirty songs from his extensive catalog. Following remarkable renditions of “Show Me What You Got,” “Take Over” (with childhood friend and longtime protégée Memphis Bleek), and “99 Problems” complete with an AC-DC infused dual-guitar solo, Jay entered the on-stage DJ Booth and preceded to gauge the crowd’s interest for his next performed single with a medley of thirty-second clips. A single verse or chorus at a time, Jigga played with the crowd by going in and out of fan favorites such as “Lucifer,” “Money Ain’t A Thang,” “Fiesta,” “Hello, Brooklyn, and “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” before finally settling on the popular party jam, “Big Pimpin.”
To wrap up the evening, Mary rejoined Jay on stage and together they performed “You’re Welcome,” the official “Heart of the City Tour” anthem. As the capacity crowd, with smiles ear to ear, offered the two performers a standing ovation, it became obvious that these amazingly talented superstars could never be thanked enough for each of their larger than life discographies. Their music has been a soundtrack to so many lives and on Saturday night, it was played out in real time.
Photo courtesy of Eric Weiler