For the penultimate show in their tour promoting their new album ‘Watch the Throne,’ Kanye West and Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, hit Sheffield Motorpoint Arena, and these big names definitely delivered a big performance. The show was explosive (quite literally – they had spared nothing when it came to pyrotechnics and fireballs) and the audience lapped it up, jumping and bouncing with their hands aloft for the whole 2.5 hours. These rap heavyweights pieced together the biggest show that the Motorpoint has seen for a long time, and definitely raised the bar of how amazing music and a theatrical performance is done.
Interestingly, the show did not have any support acts, who in normal circumstances would get the audience geared up for the main event. In this case however, the audience did not need warming up – as soon as the lights faded and the beat began, the crowd went mental, those in their seats no longer sat down, and the screams and cheering began, continuing for the whole show, and carrying on until after the encore.
The show began with Kanye on the main stage at the front, while Jay took his position on another stage, set further back in the audience, and as both stages rose 20 feet to reveal massive cuboid screens under their feet, displaying videos of sharks and angry dogs, the fans seemed torn between which hip-hop legend to favour, and which one to crowd nearest to. They began with HAM and Who Gon Stop Me from the new album, before Jay-Z joined Kanye on the main stage for ‘Otis,’ in front of the backdrop of a massive American flag, which was an electric crowd-pleaser. Both artists were dressed in minimalist black clothing, with gold jewellery, and Jay-Z wore his standard sunglasses and Brooklyn Nets baseball cap. Throughout the show they would sing a few songs individually from their own musical repertoire, before reuniting to play a number of songs collaboratively.
Kanye and Jay-Z seemed to love sharing the stage and performing together, and they had incredible chemistry. They seemed to really respect each other, and each other’s music, often mouthing along to some of the others songs, and during their performance of ‘Hard Knock Life’ and ‘New Day’, they sat down on the middle of the stage, as though they were chilling out like old friends.
There was a moment during the performance where Jay-Z and Kanye turned their back on the audience, to face the massive screen behind them, which began to show images of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, African-American slaves, rioting, mushroom clouds, and Ku Klux Klansmen (including a really young KKK member, staring stoicly at the camera, which was incredibly harrowing), while Louis Armstong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ played, and the audience went silent, watching the images with the two performers. The video was very thought-provoking, but Jay and Kanye were quick to up the mood and get the audience back moving.
The show’s highlights was Jay-Z’s call-and-response tune ‘Jigga What, Jigga Who,’ ‘Empire State of Mind’, and ‘99 problems’ and ‘Heartless’, ‘Stronger’ and ‘Jesus Walks’ from Kanye. Finally, there was the encore. The big screen at the back of the stage was illuminated with the words ‘N****s in Paris,’ and as the song title scrolled across the screen, the audience went berserk.
The pair performed the song four times in total, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, teasing the audience that they had finished before Jay-Z shouted ‘AGAIN!’ and broke out the song another time. Not many musicians could crack out the same song multiple times, especially consecutively, because the audience would be likely to get bored or restless, but it worked so well, proving Jay-Z and Kanye are music titans, and a little bit ‘cray.’ The only thing that could have topped such a performance would be if Chester Bennington of Linkin Park had made an appearance, to crack out a rendition of ‘Numb/Encore’ with Jay-Z, but that’s just a personal preference.
The concert was fast, energetic and fun and the duo looked like they really loved what they do. The hits were massive and so was the performing – the sweat on their faces said it all. It will be a long time before Jay-Z and Kanye West abdicate the hip-hop throne, especially after such an amazing, entertaining performance, which really showed off the highlights of their musical careers.