Can’t deny it. Jay Z is a consummate performer. His opening show of an eight-night run at the brand-new–and controversial–Barclays Center blew the roof off of every damn thing.
When Jay took the stage at 9:45 p.m., 19,000 fans lost their collective mind.
With what seemed like ease, Jay commanded the stage by himself, so you can imagine the barely controlled mania when the Roc Boyz–his incredible live band–dropped the first few chords of “Where I’m From,” flowing effortlessly into “Brooklyn Go Hard,” “Kick in the Door” and “Juicy.”
Jay-Z stood onstage drinking in the total adoration. Was he verklempt? Overwhelmed? In awe of himself? Wondering how best he could turn that adoration into political/community power?
“They call me H.O. eight shows,” he bragged. “You can stunt like that when you own the whole place, though.”
The crowd went nuts when Jay, 42, projected an image of Notorious B.I.G. above the crowd. Brooklyn had taken over Brooklyn.
Stopping several times to look at the crowd, he asked, “You don’t mind if I take my time? I’m really overwhelmed a little bit.”
He humbly stood before the curious mixture that made up the crowd–probably 60/40 white to Black.
Among the “old heads”–40-plus–were the young ‘uns with their snapbacks and tattoos. And then there were the freckle-faced, strawberry-blond trust fund teens there with their well-to-do families including–honestly–their grandmothers. It was bizarre.
“Everybody that’s in here tonight is from Brooklyn. So here we go, Brooklyn, what’s up?” said Jay. “This was a long journey to be here. We started out in 2003.
“What’s up, Bruce?” he called out to Bruce Ratner, developer of the arena. “Bruce came to meet at the 40/40 Club. He had this idea and vision to take this to Brooklyn. I said, ‘Wassup?’”
He told his audience that although he’d knocked it out of the park at events like Coachella, the Grammys and Glastonbury, “Nothing feels like tonight, Brooklyn. I swear to God.”
He had the whole place rocking with his urban classics like “99 Problems,” “On to the Next One,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “Give It to Me.” Once the realization set in that this was Jay’s show alone, folks stopped expecting to see Alicia, M.I.A., Beyonce or Rihanna as he plowed through other mega-hits like “Run This Town,” “Empire State of Mind,” “Can I Live,” “I.Z.Z.O,” “Jigga What” and “Hard Knock Life.”
The 11 p.m. encore brought on Brooklyn’s own Big Daddy Kane for three songs: “Ain’t No Half Steppin,” “Set It Off” and “Warm It Up.” And the crowd went bananas.
Jay came back onstage and dropped a few more crowd faves, but with seven more sold-out shows to do after that night, “I’m still not ready to leave,” he said. “There’s no m-f-g curfew. But I’ve really got to go.”
Before he went, though, he told the crowd that everyone has their own “genius-level talent” that they should strive to develop. “I ain’t no different from anyone in this room, and now I’m standing on this stage, living proof,” he said, having worked his way up from the Marcy Houses to now being part owner of the Brooklyn Nets and playing at the billion-dollar arena.
However, with an anti-violence rally outside the venue, whose organizers are asking Jay to become a financially supportive Ambassador for Peace, there were those in the audience who had hoped that the uber-entertainer–who held Brooklyn in the palm of his hand–would at least mention the need to stop urban violence. Especially gunplay. He did not. And as he left the stage with “Young Forever,” it was duly noted.