Thousands packed the Verizon Center last night for Jay Z’s Magna Carta World Tour. For those fans of Hip-Hop be it contemporary or otherwise, who as of late have been desensitized to organic artistry by the recent slew of over the top, crowd pleasers; with microphones, thigh-high sagging jeans, and enough polytechnic gimmicks to start their own circus; quite the contrary was experienced. There is no pomp and circumstance with the Magna Carta World Tour, but when you’re the 44 year old Jay-Z with a catalogue as impacting and extensive as his, none of the parlor tricks are necessary. The magic just happens.
This was evident as everyone seemed content with the hour long DJ set that played before the lights dimmed and the arena filled with roars, chants, and even a few smoke signals of sorts. Then from the center of the stage he emerged. Thirty or so monochrome HD screens on either end of the stage illuminated his presence, but spent most of the time displaying shots of the audience and Jay’s well put together band of musical misfits including Tony Royster Jr. on drums, Clayton Sears on bass/guitar, “My favorite instrument is the keys…Some of you get it now, some of you will get it later.” Jay-Z smirked before introducing keyboardist and musical director Omar Edwards. Legendary producer and resident DJ throughout the concert, Timbaland rounded out the group that had the crowd on their feet all night jamming to Jay-Z’s hit after hit. He himself even had to admit, “Oh I like where this is going.” after his well welcomed intro to ‘You Don’t Know’ which transitioned into ‘Holy Grail'.
Although the tour is in support of his twelfth album ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ (Which debut at #1 on the billboard 200) there was seemingly no hit left out of Jay-Z's repertoire. Perhaps it was in the spirit of ‘Throwback Thursday’ that prompted him to ask the audience, “How many got that ‘Reasonable Doubt’ album?” before zipping through ‘Dead Presidents’ and then with a smirk, “OK, I was just testing y'all.” He then reached back again with ‘Can I live’ and declared, “I told y'all we just getting started!” The night went on in that same fashion of fun and foundation with Jay-Z performing double-dutch style new hit, classic hit, new hit, classic hit. ‘SOMEWHEREINAMERICA’ transitioned into ‘Big Pimpin’ which brought an end to the first set giving way for DJ Timbaland to fill everyone’s ears with nostalgia via his production credit prowess. It lasted just long enough for Jay-Z wipe his forehead, catch his second wind, and perhaps change shirts and reemerge for round two taking on more hits such as ‘Jigga What Jigga Who’, and ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ which he creatively intertwined the lyrics “Wipe me down”, and then very confidently reminded the audience, “ I told y'all I got a million of these.”
Watching Jay-Z perform in this era of his life is like watching a kid in a candy store, strolling up and down aisle after aisle with shelves fully stocked with his favorite brand of decadence… that just so happens to be his own. He left the stage once more saying goodnight to everybody as the lights faded on ‘Run This Town’ (No Riri wasn't present and neither was Kanye) but the crowd wasn't having it. A 45 minute set was not going to cut it, at least certainly not with the D.C. audience. Chants and roars immediately resounded. This couldn't have been it. Then it happened, Jay-Z gave them an encore, literally. The horns of ‘Encore’ blared through the speakers in proclamation of his return to the stage. Midway through it he stopped to make acknowledgments in the audience. Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson was present as well as Les Twins, the twin brother duo who have been dancing backup for Beyonce for the past few years. Most importantly though, Jay-Z’s fans and supporters were there and he made a big deal of it. He took time to personally scout out eye catching individuals and made sure that the cameramen gave them ample screenplay. Young and old, shy and over enthused, (One lady almost ruined the moment but Jay-Z graciously pardoned her and chalked it up to her having what he referred to as a “Little Lil Mama Moment”) Jay-Z took the time to engage, appreciate, and thank everyone for spending their hard earned money on tickets to come and see him. He then performed a couple more of his hits and concluded the evening with a modern technological vigil to commemorate the life of the great Nelson Mandela. Everyone held up their mobile devices and lit up the arena like a Southern night’s sky as Jay-Z performed ‘Young Forever’. Among the many lessons that Jay-Z has learned and mastered in his nearly two decade long career, the main one that he imparted last night was how to always leave them wanting more.
For more information on Jay-Z and his Magna Carta World Tour please visit http://www.magnacartaholygrail.com/