by Jade Melnick
Jay-Z triumphed at the Bell Centre on October 30th. Having been in the hip-hop game since his legendary 1996 release “Reasonable Doubt”, this Brooklyn boy has managed to stay relevant and real.
The three opening acts, for the most part, successfully satisfied the antsy audience as they awaited the arrival of a true hip-hop superstar.
Rapper J-Cole, featured on Jay-Z’s latest release, The Blueprint 3, performed a short set of three songs, charming the spectators with his lively personality and stage presence.
Next up was Wale, hailing from Washington, D.C, accompanied by his hype-man, a completely unnecessary component to his act. His whiny singing voice served less as a support outlet and more like a distraction. Wale immediately confessed to the crowd how grateful he is that Montreal “gave his city a baseball team”. This playful taunt surely engaged the audience almost as much as when he strolled into the seats during his last song, letting the lucky people on the floor get rowdy. The highlight of his performance was the backing band who played an unexpected cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
The final opener, N.E.R.D, led by front man Pharrell Williams, is the ideal act to hype up any crowd. I last saw them a couple years ago when they joined Kanye “I’m the Best” West on his Glow in the Dark Tour, and their energetic, animated live show never seizes to impress.
Jay-Z, rising from a platform below the stage, dressed sharply like Johnny Cash “in all black everything”, echoing the lyrics to his most recent single “Run This Town” and the song that opened the show, was greeted like a God. His last Montreal concert was a decade ago. Old fans were glad to have him back, ready to savour each song they’ve been listening to for years. Young fans, like the little boy brought up onstage, his first time seeing Jay in concert, in awe of this smooth, classy New Yorker whose style and natural Brooklyn swagger they try so eagerly to emulate. There were more Yankee caps in the crowd than at a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. Mr. Shawn Carter entertained his admirers with non-stop classic Jay songs chosen from his vast repertoire of hits. He performed a handful of tracks off of The Blueprint 3, devoted to each one, each rhyme, each syllable. He was having fun too, feeding off the fans as their energy level got higher and higher with each song, forcing them to their feet for the entire show. His encore consisted of a stream of hits, closing with “Young Forever”, the final song off his latest album. It made my friend’s eyes tear up and definitely gave me the best kind of shivers. The most moving moment, however, was when Jay singled out specific individuals in the crowd, letting them know that he noticed them and cared that they were there. Leaving the stage from the same platform he arrived, he looked as powerful as The Statue of Liberty. Like the lady in the harbour, Jay Z is the real thing.