Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jay-Z Concert Actually Happens, Mary J. Steals the Show

By Rachel Swan
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 10:31 AM

Rapper Jay-Z descended on Oakland's Oracle Arena last night for a much-anticipated show with queen of R&B Mary J. Blige and over-hyped "ghetto falsetto" opener The-Dream. (How the "ghetto falsetto" craze got started is really anybody's guess, but please, someone, make it stop). Complete with fiery geysers, splashy video projections, staged dramatizations of the break-up songs, guest appearances by Memphis Bleek, and yes, a real live band with real horns and a real R&B string section, the show was a typical blow-out affair.

Rapper Jay-Z descended on Oakland's Oracle Arena last night for a much-anticipated show with queen of R&B Mary J. Blige and over-hyped "ghetto falsetto" opener the American Dream. (How the "ghetto falsetto" craze got started is really anybody's guess, but please, someone, make it stop). Complete with fiery geysers, splashy video projections, staged dramatizations of the break-up songs, guest appearances by Memphis Bleak, and yes, a real live band with real horns and a real R&B string section, the show was a typical blow-out affair.

It loosely resembled December's Chris Brown and Bow-Wow show, but seemed a lot more adult, a lot more musical (particularly with the emphasis on live instrumentation and actual vocals), and more topical (particularly when Jay-Z projected a picture of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama onscreen, to rousing cheers). Jigga ran through all his hits ("H to the Izzo", "Excuse Me, Miss", "Encore", "Thirty Is the New Twenty", "99 Problems", "Dirt off Your Shoulder"), performing most of them all the way through -- save for an annoying interlude when he walked over to the DJ booth and started pushing buttons on the soundboard, shuffling through thirty-second clips of such classics as "Big Pimpin" and "Crazy in Love", and saying, "aww, nah, fuck that" with the aplomb of someone flipping channels on a remote. (Which might have been all good, had the tickets not cost upwards of $60 a pop for nosebleed seats, $150 for floor and "club access" -- plus the $25 parking fee).

But Mary J., who wore a bone-blond bob, hoop earrings, a leather catsuit, and knee-high boots, was the show's real star. She threw herself into so-so compositions like this year's "Just Fine," adding ad-libbed howls and protracted, melismatic runs that showed the arresting and preternatural qualities of her voice. In the middle of the set you could see tears streaming down her face.

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