JAY-Z AND KANYE WEST: WATCH THE THRONE
When: Saturday night (again Sunday night)
Where: Rogers Arena
VANCOUVER - The teaming up of Kanye West and Jay-Z for this year's larger-than-life collaboration album Watch The Throne was inevitable.
After all, West was one of the producers behind Jay-Z's classic 2001 album The Blueprint and both artists have followed a parallel path ever since, Jay-Z the mogul/entrepreneuri, West the tortured, egocentric artiste.
The common element in the Watch The Throne equation was opulence: Both rappers have been sitting on top of the hip-hop world for a decade, sometimes showing up on each others' records, defining the genre's fashion and directional shifts, streamlining mainstream and underground pop elements.
West brought much-maligned tools like Auto-Tune to new heights on 808s and Heartbreak and his 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
If Watch The Throne, recorded in various studios and hotel rooms all over the world over the course of late 2010 and early 2011, suffered a bit from a lack of focus, it remains a landmark record for the simple fact that it brought two of hip-hop's biggest figures together in full force and promised a one-of-a-kind tour, generating a tidal wave of buzz. The album, which almost miraculously did not leak, sold by the truckload.
The North American Watch The Throne Tour was coming to a close this weekend in Vancouver with two performances at Rogers Arena.
Confetti from funk-pop icon Prince's spectacular concert Friday night still speckled the stands where the fans were anxiously awaiting Ye and Hova's performance Saturday, the penultimate date on the pair's 27-date tour.
Vancouver's royal weekend was about to get kicked up another notch with a show that would blend both rappers' best tracks, a hip-hop marathon of ridiculous proportions, laced with all the mythical grandeur one would have expected.
Material from Watch The Throne basically bookended the evening, which kicked off with H.A.M. and a laser-filled Who Gon' Stop Me, Kanye and Jay-Z appearing atop two cube-shaped mini-stages at each end of the room before joining forces on the main stage, American flag in the background, fireballs blasting from both sides for hit single Otis, with Otis Redding's Try A Little Tenderness mixed in.
Both rappers then took turns performing highlight cuts from their extensive catalogues, Kanye handing out Can't Tell Me Nothing and Flashing Lights (shadow play and lasers), Jesus Walks and Diamonds From Sierra Leone, Jay-Z returning the favour with Public Service Announcement, U Don't Know (the crowd throwing down diamond hand signs in unison) and Run This Town.
There was no doubt we were witnessing an epic meeting of the hip-hop minds, a summit of we would likely not see again, Kanye and Jay-Z providing the real fireworks with their rhymes, the rest of the presentation consisting of two large mirrored screens used to great effect, more fireballs and lasers, a small backing band adding live sonic texturing to the DJ tracks.
It was no contest, it was a demonstration of dual mastery of a genre, a celebration of power that reached an early peak when Kanye busted out Monster and (of course) Power, the entire arena shaking during the King Crimson-sampled break.
"It's an honor to be on this stage with my idol," Kanye said at the end of Made in America. "We're on the stage together to show you what can happen if your share ideas. Be great. Be awesome."
Jay-Z's Hard Knock Life, Izzo (H.O.V.A.) and Empire State of Mind, where he asked, "Can I make Vancouver my home?" lead to Kanye's now classic ode to the douchebags, Runaway, West standing atop a red-lit cube stage in the middle of the room.
Outstanding and unrelenting.
However, no D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) to follow Kanye's Heartless. Now that would have been kind of funny.
Minor quibble: The sound mix could get pretty muddy at times, drowning out some of the vocals. Not that it mattered that much considering the near sold-out room knew and sang every word.
In the end, this was a rap show for the ages, clocking in at well over two hours, hitting cornerstones like Stronger, Gold Digger, 99 Problems and more, ending on multiple renditions of N----s In Paris, Kanye and Jay-Z sitting atop their throne, having delivered what was easily one of the best shows of the year.
Read more: Review: Jay-Z and Kanye West the kings of rap in Vancouver