“You guys paid a lot of money for those seats,” he said. “I want you to have a good time.”
What was missing in all of the action, though: Jay Z’s partners in crime. While he’s undeniably charming, even intermittently addressing individual members of the crowd, tracks like “Ni**as in Paris” and “Run This Town” don’t hit as hard without Kanye West and Rihanna in the house, respectively. To be fair, the wash of unexpected color from Jay Z’s massive stage lighting setup did pick up a bit of the showmanship slack, with a massive room full of red lighting providing stark and ironically timed contrast to Jay’s “all black everything” line.
Finally, the Arena went dark for a few minutes. Jay Z and band returned for the bizarre encore, appropriately tipped off by “Encore.” A very lengthy audience banter session ensued, then band introductions—including a White Stripes guitar solo by Jay Z’s gas masked guitarist—and a trilogy of singles: “Empire State of Mind”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”—the track that arguably tipped the scales in favor of Jay Z’s superstardom.
Show closer “Young Forever” was preceded by a short tribute to Nelson Mandela and lighters/cell phones casting a glow over the crowd.
Then, after a few words of thanks and an “I love you” from the man himself, Jay Z strolled out as casually as he’d come in, and it was over.