Live Review: Watch the Throne Tour

When: November 21, 2011

Where: TD Garden – Boston, MA

The expectation that was set for this performance was grandiose to say the least. Accompanying the most anticipated collaborative album of the year, the Watch The Throne tour would seemingly have to pull out all the proverbial stops to keep hype perpetuating and to the focus on two of hip-hop’s biggest names. But in front of their most die-hard Boston fans, Jay-Z and Kanye West proved that despite their titles of self-proclaimed royalty, they have more ambition than ever. With no opening act, they launched their epic two and a half hour set with the pulsating “H.A.M,” standing at opposing ends of the arena (Kanye stood at the main stage—Jay was standing on an elevated platform toward the back of the audience). This dualism continued for “Who Gon’ Stop Me,” but they ultimately joined the stage together for “Otis,” as an American flag provided the backdrop amidst an array of lights and lazer beams. Standing right next to each other, their styles were in perfect contrast.

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Jay was the cooler and more collected of the two, delivering rhymes effortlessly with sheer confidence and poise. Kanye was the scrappier version of this, releasing bolts of energy, running across the stage to bolster the audience with his every move. This distinction between the two MCs became even more palpable as they each launched into their own sets. Kanye swayed the crowd with quite the catalogue of hits (“Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Jesus Walks,” Flashing Lights,” “All Falls Down,” “Touch The Sky,” “All of The Lights”) while Jay captivated with classics (“Give It To Me,” “Izzo,” “Empire State of Mind,” “Jigga What Jigga Who,” “Onto The Next One”). And while Kanye relished a little in his trademark self-deprecating sentimentality by performing “Runaway” and “Heartless” back to back, he quickened things up with a tumultuous rendition of “Stronger.”

The closest Jay came to mimicking such emotion was when he sat down to perform “Hard Knock Life” alongside a more mellowed-out Kanye, who was nodding along and mouthing all of the words. Naturally, this feeling was conjured up yet again during “No Church In The Wild,” but the two quickly went back to piggy backing off of each other’s songs. Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin” led Kanye to comment that that train of thought leads to certain problem as “Golddigger” started rattling from the speakers. Jay retorted that he only had thing to say to that and went into “99 Problems.”

It was only fair to assume that “Niggas in Paris” would be an encore, but the number of times they would perform it became enigmatic in itself. After its 4th run through, the end of evening seemed evident but then Kanye insisted that they weren’t ready to go home yet. This prompted a 5th performance of the song, but after taunting onlookers with the statement this crowd was  just as live as Baltimore, Boston fans were goaded into a 6th. Was this stunt completely outrageous and over the top? Of course—but I doubt anyone in that arena would have had it any other way.

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