The Blueprint 3 tour -- by Hugo Lunny, October 2009
With more number one albums than Elvis, it's no surprise that every Jay-Z show sells out. That was exactly the scenario witnessed by all at his GM Place appearance. With seats filled as far as the eye could see, hooks, lyrics and ad-libs sung in unison by the thousands, it was hard to believe this was just another rap show.
Enormous backdrops behind Jay transformed every song into a music video as huge, bold colours, image tracing effects and video footage supported his renditions and furthered the overall experience.
Now your stature in a particular field can be defined be a variety of variables, and in music, your assistance or lack thereof (autotune, hype man or playback) can represent a great deal. In contrast to the last performance at GM Place (April 20th, 1999), he now is accompanied by a full band instead of a lone DJ. His hype man and sidekick since day one remains the same though as Memphis Bleek, complimenting the perfect finish to any lines which need emphasis, or at points where Jay needs to catch his breath. However, having performed for so long, Jigga has his set perfected. His cadence is stunning and his lyrics are enunciated clearly, so the term "hype man" really isn't as appropriate as with most rappers.
This was clearly The Blueprint 3 tour, with the majority of the album performed live. Jay stepped out onto the stage with "Run This Town," which as expected was met with huge roars and excitement. The same went for his follow up from BP3, "D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)." Also interlaced throughout the set were various songs from the album including "Venus vs. Mars," "Already Home" the crowd pleaser "Empire State of Mind," performed with guest singer Bridget Kelly who replaced Alicia Keys. Kelly served as Jay's back up singer also covering the hooks and vocals on some other hits including a well received performance of "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" and "Song Cry."
Surprisingly Pharrell wasn't more present during Jay's set (N.E.R.D. opened the show). His hooks were only personally performed when he came out for The Blueprint 3's "So Ambitious." Although the crowd loved seeing him return to the stage, the fact that he didn't step out for his other hooks seemed odd. "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" would have been even better with his personal touch.
Unlike most shows, midway through Jay chose to set up his encore, leaving and returning as if to take a half time break. He toyed with the audience sampling a bunch of his hit verses, including an accappella performance of "Swagga Like Us" and a little of "Lucifer."
The show's finale seemed stretched out though could have gone more smoothly. After finishing with "Encore" he kept the audience engaged by utilizing the lights and naming audience members to thank personally. This session seemed to go on endlessly, and quite a few people left, bored with hearing him thank and refer to individuals by complimenting their clothing. Those that stayed during his drawn out thanks were able to have the evening wrap up with the Blueprint 3 album's final song, "Forever Young." An ideal conclusion, perfectly set for lighters being held and cell phones powered up as the arena's lights were reduced to nearly nothing in order to showcase the light display.
Jay-Z's show was perfect for any fan. Unfortunately, due to an astoundingly vast catalogue such as his, individual album favourites can easily be overlooked. But if you're a fan of the classic Jay hits; "Big Pimpin'," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "Hard Knock Life," "Can I Get A" etc. Jay-Z puts on one of rap's best live shows period.