Monday October 6, 2008
Bayfront Park Ampitheatre, Miami
Better Than: A McCain-sponsored get-out-the-vote concert. No offense, Daddy Yankee.
Jay-Z kicked off last night's show with a disclaimer. "I'm a free American citizen stating my fucking opinion," he said, and spelled out that he speaks not for the Barack Obama campaign -- in an attempt to do it no harm.
"I ain't the Reverend," he added, a reference to Jesse Jackson's publicized rift with Obama.
With that out of the way, Hova dutifully put in a night's work for the cause. And while there were few surprises -- Jay-Z markets himself as a product, and if you'll notice, no can of Coke tastes different from another -- I can't imagine anybody left disappointed either.
He took the stage with a hard act to follow. Wyclef, who on his albums comes across as one of the more annoying people on the planet, always plays a soul-filled, uber-energetic live show, and the politically fired-up crowd seemed to motivate him further. He improvised in song ("If you don't get low, I'ma assume you're voting for McCain"), played an electric guitar and bongos, and performed back-flips.
But the only gymnastics Jay-Z partakes in are of the lyrical variety. Wearing dark Joe Camel shades, he sauntered to the stage without a smile, and didn't flash a hint of one throughout his roughly hour-long set. In fact, he looked somewhat bored, even as the crowd hung on every word, and chanted many of them for him. In his performance of "Can I Get A...," Jay-Z really just punctuated the crowd, kicking off lines with grunted syllables and letting his adoring legions do the rapping.
But, as always, Jay-Z's charisma and non-plussed wit more than made up for what he might have lacked in exuberance. And last night's crowd heard seemingly every hit, all 18,000 of them, from Reasonable Doubt's "Can't Knock the Hustle" to a brass band-backed "Roc Boys."
For an encore, Jay-Z parked himself behind the DJs turntable and tooled through snippets from his catalog, trying to find an appropriate parting song. "Nah, too hardcore", he said, cutting from a few seconds of "My 1st Song", earning laughing boos from the crowd. "Ya'll didn't get that album," he dismissed another after only a few chords of what I can only speculate was a Roc La Familia song.
Eventually, Jay decided on a dual encore: "Big Pimpin'" and "Hard Knock Life". And while he might have mentioned the night's cause a couple of times- He just called Sarah Palin a bitch!- this show, was not a celebration of Barack Obama, but of Shawn Carter. If you were expecting something different, you haven't been listening.
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Personal Bias: If the election was Nas vs. Jay-Z, I'd be working a phone bank in Queensbridge.
Random Detail: Memphis Bleek was onstage backing up Jay-Z's vocals, leading Crossfade to believe the once-hot-prospect has found his calling: hypeman.