Thursday, December 8th 2011
Shows: The Throne
Back in August the much anticipated (but somehow leak-proof) Watch The Throne collaboration album between Jay-Z and Kanye West was finally released, showcasing two rap icons celebrating the success they’ve worked for and found (check out our review). Touring in support of the record, Ye & Hov had no problem filling Dallas’ American Airlines Center on Tuesday night, where for over two and a half hours the duo shared the spotlight, running through their respective greatest hits and covering the majority of material from the new LP.
Roughly an hour and a half after the scheduled start time, the lights dimmed and the show was off. H.A.M. opened the concert, finding Jay-Z situated on a smaller cube-shaped stage in the middle of the floor while Kanye, clad in a leather skirt, took charge of a cube on the main stage. Thousands of cell phones lit up the arena as track’s stuttering beat got the crowd riled up. By the time the song’s haunting choral arrangement arrived, both Kanye and Jay-Z’s cube stages had ascended towards the arena ceiling, towering over those on the floor. Large screens on each side of the cube showcased a barking, growling dog as the song faded to a close before immediately launching into Who Gon’ Stop Me.
At this point the cube stages had turned aqua blue, featuring an image of a shark swimming around while Kanye and Jay-Z (Janye?) traded off lines from the song. The two rising cube stages were a nice touch, allowing even those at the back of the arena to feel much closer to the two stars, but as Who Gon’ Stop Me came to a close Jay-Z and Kanye lowered back down to the ground.
The lights shut off as Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness began, signaling the start of one of WTT’s strongest tracks – Otis. Jay-Z and Kanye now shared the main stage, a giant Givenchy-designed American flag hanging behind them. Columns of pyro punctuated the lyrics as the two stars orbited around each other putting their egos on display.
After a few more tracks from Watch the Throne, Kanye left the stage for Jay-Z to take a solo spotlight during Where I’m From and Jigga What, Jigga Who (Originator ’99). The latter saw Jay-Z furiously spitting lyrics, perfectly matching the song’s staccato beat. Towards the end of the track the music dropped out and Jay-Z continued on acapella, driving the crowd nuts.
Kanye came back out on stage as Jay-Z departed, giving the former protégé-turned-equal a solo spotlight. Ye kicked off with Can’t Tell Me Nothing before launching into older fan favorite All Falls Down. The songs went quickly, after a lightshow heavy Flashing Lights and an absolutely smoldering Jesus Walks, Jay-Z rejoined Kanye on stage for the remix of Diamonds from Sierra Leone.
The two asked the crowd to throw their diamonds (see: hands) in the air and bounce up and down as the song’s epic string arrangement bounced off the stadium walls. It was a goose bump-inducing moment, and hearing the track (originally from 2005) makes one wonder why it took the two so long to do an entire album together.
The rest of the show found the two switching back and forth for mini-sets of solo material and then joining back up for the WTT tracks. All of the hits were present – Kanye delivered with Power, Heartless, Stronger and Good Life while Jay brought the now-classic Empire State of Mind, Dirt Of Your Shoulder and Big Pimpin’.
While much of the material on WTT focuses on ego stroking, “look at how amazing we are” lyrics, one of the highlights of the show came from the one of the more pensive tracks on the record.
New Day found the two sit down on the stage and deliver the concerns they have for their future children. Kanye examined some of his past mistakes, promising to raise his child ego-free and far away from the telethon circuit. For Jay, who’s very pregnant wife was reportedly in the crowd, the lyrics seemed to take on even more meaning: “Sorry junior, I already ruined you / Cause you ain’t even alive, paparazzi pursuing you.”
Line after line, Jay seemed to really contemplate the lyrics while delivering them, and it definitely showed a more vulnerable, human side of the man that wasn’t really present for any other song on the set.
Runaway found Kanye perched on top of the secondary cube stage, now completely illuminated with red light. He seemed genuinely emotional for the song, using autotune as a weird mixture catharsis and hiding behind the lyrics. The song evolved as it went on, developing into the full nine-minute version on West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. While autotune isn’t going to please everyone, Kanye’s usage of it on Runaway really seems to amplify the meaning of the words, projecting them with far more emotion than without.
Later in the show Kanye restarted All of the Lights three separate times, saying that he needed the crew to turn on ALL of the lights. Why? He wanted the crowd to get what they paid for. He’s been doing it at every show, but those in the crowd who didn’t know ate it up, cracking up before he finally did the song the entire way through. Once it finally got going the entire crowd could be seen bouncing up and down, going crazy and singing along with the song’s irresistible hook.
Both Yeezy and Jay joined together for Gold Digger and 99 Problems. Out of everything that was played during the show, these two tracks got the biggest reaction from the crowd all night. Kanye grinned from ear to ear as Jay played his hype man, getting the entire audience to scream “WE WANT PRE-NUP!” at precisely the right time. Kanye returned the favor for Jay, getting laughs from the audience while playing the cop that pulls over Jay on the Black Album classic.
Niggas in Paris ended the show, with Kanye and Jay playing the track a total of four times. Yes, four. The main set ended after two runs through the fan favorite track from WTT, then the guys came back out to play the song twice more as an encore. They’ve gone as far as playing this track nine times at other shows on the tour, and while it sounds ridiculous in print and when looking at a setlist, it really does get the crowd going and each time the track restarted more and more people seemed to be jumping up and down and rapping along.
Before the third take on the track, they invited everyone down to the arena floor. As the song started up again, the floor had quickly become a writhing, bouncing dance party. One can only imagine what the energy would have been like had they kept the track going for a couple more iterations.
The sheer number of classic songs in both Kanye and Jay’s respective repertoires is rather astounding, and hearing them laid out for a two-hour show is a guaranteed must-see for any fan. This trek is almost over, but these guys work so well together both on record and on stage that it would be a real shame to not get another tour or album someday.
Check out our pics from the show (all photos by Misha Sakellaropoulo):
Setlist: H.A.M., Who Gon’ Stop Me, Otis, Welcome to the Jungle, Gotta Have It, Where I’m From, Jigga What, Jigga Who (Originator ’99), Can’t Tell Me Nothing, All Falls Down, Flashing Lights, Jesus Walks, Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix), Public Service Announcement (Interlude), U Don’t Know, Run This Town, Monster, Power/Power Remix, Made in America, New Day, Hard Knock Life (The Ghetto Anthem), Izzo (H.O.V.A.), Empire State of Mind, Runaway, Heartless, Stronger, On to the Next One, Dirt Off Your Shoulder, I Just Wanna Love U (Give it to Me), That’s My Bitch, Good Life, Touch the Sky, All of the Lights, Big Pimpin’, Gold Digger, 99 Problems, No Church in the Wild, Lift Off (Interlude), Niggas In Paris, Niggas In Paris, Niggas In Paris, Niggas In Paris