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In concert: Jay-Z

Jay-ZJay-Z eventually got it going at Verizon Center Wednesday night. (All photos by Ricky Carioti/TWP)

By Sarah Godfrey

Jay-Z, as he’s fond of saying, isn’t a businessman, he’s a business, man. But lately he seems to have forgotten the number one rule of business -- the customer is always right. As much as Jay-Z fans enjoy browsing photos of his adventures with wife Beyoncé, patronizing his clubs, wearing his clothes, and watching the New Jersey Nets, the people are hungry for a different sort of product -- namely, the rap masterpieces on which his empire was built.

While Jay-Z’s relevance as a cultural icon is at an all time high, the Brooklyn MC’s hip-hop legacy is on shaky ground, thanks to 2006’s lackluster “Kingdom Come” and last year’s polarizing mixed bag, “The Blueprint 3.” But Hov fought valiantly for his rap crown at the Verizon Center on Wednesday: although the BP3 tour supports one of the most disappointing albums of his career, he still proved that there’s never been a rapper this good for this long -- even though it took him half the show to do it.

(Saved by the hits, plus more pictures after the jump.)

Jay-Z

After Virginia singer Trey Songz gave a brief set filled with just enough of his hits, but not nearly enough of his abs, a 10-minute countdown clock came down from the rafters and the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” blared from the speakers. When the wait was over, a curtain dropped to reveal video screens cut in the shape of the NYC skyline, a live band, and Jay, who rose from beneath the stage, wearing all black everything, of course.

Despite that rap star entry, he seemed way too mellow during “Run This Town,” “D.O.A” and “On to the Next” from “The Blueprint 3.” Jay, who has been treading that fine line between getting his grown man on and getting his old man on for a while now, took the ultra-cool, laid-back “new Sinatra” thing a bit too far. Is 30 the new 20 or…the new 70? Watching an over-zealous fan rush the stage and get tossed by security was more thrilling.

The lull continued with the new school New York anthem “Empire State of Mind,” as a singer who wasn’t Alicia Keys appeared to sing the hook. Things looked up when Georgia rapper Young Jeezy emerged and the two men dug into “Real As It Gets,” but, again, Jay seemed to be sleep-rapping.

Jay-Z

But then: Only in the DMV could Jeezy bring up the energy level at a Jay-Z show. As the rapper said over and over again, quoting “Circulate” from “The Recession”: "They love me out in D.C., just like go-go.” Truth in advertising: the Snowman’s powerhouse solo set included “I Luv It” and “Put On,” which brought the first real insane crowd reaction of the night.

And at that point, S. Carter seemed to realize that he must try harder: when Jay-Z reemerged, he and Jeezy performed the remix of “My President,” followed by Jay’s rousing “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” (preceded by the famous clip of President Obama, on the campaign trail, dismissing haters by brushing the dirt off of his suit jacket).

After “Thank You” from “BP3,” and a fake “goodnight!” Jay announced, “[Expletive] it -- let’s go into overtime,” and launched into a magical set just for fans of 1996’s “Reasonable Doubt,” 1997’s “In My Lifetime, Vol. 1” 1998’s “Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life” and 1999’s “Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter.”

For someone who has been critical of fans who prefer his early material over his new stuff, Hov perked up considerably during “Excuse Me Miss,” “La La La,” “Big Pimpin’” and other older hits. Quiet during the early part of show, he began bouncing around and letting off the little bragging asides he’s known for: “Let me know if I’m going too far back!” “I’ve got a million of these!”

After the classic “Can I Live,” the crowd finally starts chanting “Ho-va! Ho-va!” and for an encore, there was “The Black Album”’s “Encore,” which showed that Hov definitely still has the goods.

Jay-Z

By David Malitz  |  March 4, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Jay-Z, Trey Songz, Young Jeezy  
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Comments

Jay-Z: coasting on his laurels since 2003.

Posted by: agl132 | March 4, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Sounded like a good show. Started a little slow. He may be a little tired of touring.

Posted by: ged0386 | March 4, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Sarah, I beg to differ. It hardly seems like we were at the same concert. First, Jay killed it. I have seen him a number of times in concert and he continues to improve on his performances. Second, Jeezy was marginal at best. Every facet of the concert deteriorated during his performance. Did you notice the severe lack of crowd participation during his entire set? Overall, I enjoyed the concert, but to suggest that Jeezy increased the energy level in the stadium is simply laughable. Tens of thousands of people with waiving their diamonds in the air versus people sitting in their seats waiting for Jeezy to get to a song they recognize.

Posted by: guest8 | March 4, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I agree Jay killed it…in the second half. The first half wasn’t horrible, it just seemed quiet by Jay-Z arena show standards. When Jeezy did “Put On,” I thought that was the first really intense crowd reaction of the night. I’m used to going to a Jay-Z concert and seeing people spitting lyrics at each other, standing on their seats (until security tells them to stop, of course), crying. Remember how crazy everyone got during “Big Pimpin’?” Once upon a time, you’d see that sort of reaction during Jay’s entire show!

Posted by: Sarah_Godfrey | March 5, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I was at the concert at Verizon Center and i thought Jay killed it. I loved it except for Jeezy, they could have left him out and gave more Jay. The idea of Jeezy saving the show is CRAZY. Jay gave an oustanding performance!!!!!

Posted by: tirrellperry | March 6, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

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