Jay-Z’s BP3 Tour made a recent stop at Chicago’s United Center and a good time was had by all. R&B singer Trey Songz opened the show with a 35 minute set catered toward the ladies. After Songz left the stage business picked up real fast.
Stage curtains opened to reveal gigantic video monitors and a 10-piece band dressed in black. Rising up from beneath the stage was Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z dressed in all black to match his band.
That was as theatrical as the show ever got. Jay wasted no time getting into the hits, opening with three straight selections from the Blueprint 3, Run This Town, On to the Next One, and Death of Autotune.
The Chicago audience sang along to every lyric, chorus, and ad-lib of Jay-Z’s most recent hits.
Jay was then joined on stage by his long time protégé Memphis Bleek to assist on earlier Jay-Z classics U Don’t Know, 99 Problems, and Public Service Announcement.
The show’s opener Trey Songz returned to the stage to sing the chorus on Heart of the City and Already Home.
Another guest appeared that simply could not go away soon enough. Billed at the show’s opening act Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy joined Jay-Z on stage to perform As Real as it Gets and the remix to My President is Black—but it didn’t end there. Hov took a powder for close to 30 minutes while Young Jeezy ran through a string of songs from his catalog like Soul Survivor and Put On.
Young Jeezy’s addition to Jay’s set proved to be a mistake as he rapped over pre-canned vocals. Jeezy sidetracked what was an excellent show and was better suited as an opening act. A large segment of the audience hung to Jeezy’s every word while another portion of the crowd impatiently waited on Jay-Z’s return.
When Jay did return he got right back to business performing songs like Dirt Off Your Shoulder, Venus vs. Mars, and an outstanding A Cappella rendition of Hate.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward and Jay-Z associate LeBron James was in the audience and Jay-Z took the time to acknowledge his presence which garnered screams from the ladies and slight boo’s from the fella’s—Jay this ain’t Cleveland. Jay then performed an obscure mixtape diss song toward Dallas Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson in honor of LeBron James.
Once that distraction was over Jay-Z invited all of his new fans to hit the highway as he was going to take his old fans on a ride back to 1996. In what was easily the highlight of his entire performance Jay-Z ripped through songs from his early albums such as Excuse Me Miss, Where I’m From, Dead Presidents, Big Pimpin’ and Hard Knock Life.
The best selection from the bunch was Can I Live from Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt. Can I Live was the only song that Jay performed in its entirety during this segment even though it was probably the least popular tune. This song was a reminder of why we all fell in love with Jay-Z to begin with—he’s sick. “I’d rather die enormous than live dormant,” Jay-Z rapped. Somewhere Isaac Hayes was smiling.
After going down memory lane Jay took the time to point out individual fans in the audience—even inviting one young lady on stage for a hug, an autograph, and a free-style session.
Continuing the love-fest Jay asked for a request from the audience. One young lady in the front row got her wish as Jay performed 2001’s Song Cry accompanied only by keyboardist Omar Edwards.
Hov then asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday (the Stevie Wonder version) to his bass player Tony Russell—love was in the air.
Almost every song worth mentioning was covered in this show. Jay-Z performed songs from every one of his albums minus 2007’s American Gangster. The show closed fittingly with the Kanye West produced Encore from 2003’s Black Album.
This show was a no-frills journey through a 14-year career on wax. During the show Jay once stopped in between songs to give himself props, “That boy Hov bad,” he joked. He also stopped to tell the Chi-Town crowd that he didn’t take any of them for granted. Jay-Z was both arrogant and humble in a two hour span, but always entertaining.
As I watched Jay tear through hit after hit I couldn’t help but wonder if I was witnessing the greatest MC of all time. Only Jay-Z could pull off a show so great with lyrics to match. The barber shop debate on who the best MC is will go on forever, but I’ve never seen anyone be so good for as long as Jay-Z has been.
For more info: http://www.jay-z.com/