[live review] Jay-Z and Kanye bring the cray, some lasers to the Garden

Maybe I've just been spending too much time in the Phoenix newsroom, but it was hard to sit inside the Garden on Monday night and not let my mind wander to those holed up around the corner in Dewey Square. And no, not just because of JAY-Z's recent bout of exploitation in the name of the Roc. Or because of KANYE WEST's recent bout of solidarity (read: opportunity to flash his fronts) on Wall Street.

More than anything, it was the album they were occupying Boston in the name of. Watch the Throne, their first collaborative full length effort, an effort which I derided upon its release for being excessively excessive -- criticism made all the more pertinent during these times when kids are literally getting the shit beat out of them in protest of the very same virtues these two espouse.

So while those less than a mile away from the arena were presumably heating up cans of soup with their Bic lighters, Kanye took to the stage in a leather kilt that probably costs more than what this writer makes in six months. And the crowd came out in their Sunday's best, only if they went to church in the club.

And there were lasers. And pyrotechnics. A football field-sized American flag used only for a single song. Dueling two-story risers, adorned with LED images that gave the perception they were rapping on-top of shark tanks. In the immortal words of Dave Chappelle, "the most ballinest shit ever." Basically, the Death Star assault scene from Episode IV meets a shiny-suit-era Puffy and Mase video.

A spectacle by-and-by. And an integral one at that, because if you have ever seen either Jay or Kanye's solo performance (Hov three times, Yeezy twice, myself), the barebones performance aspect wasn't all that different. Both have hits for days, with Jay's standard bearers popping the hardest on Monday per usual ("Big Pimpin',""PSA,""Hard Knock Life").

Personally, I was more floored by Kanye's solo offerings on the evening merely because his catalog has seemingly surpassed Jay's in terms of stadium bangers. Every time I thought they were on the verge of wrapping up their eventual two-and-a-half hour extravaganza, Kanye would launch into "Touch the Sky" or "All of the Lights" or "Good Life," and I would proclaim rather audibly, "OOHHH YEAH, he got this one too."

When sharing the stage, the most refreshing material was their non-Throne collaborations. Like hearing their bookended verses on "Monster," or Jay's casual interruption on their "Diamonds" remix ("I got it from here ‘Ye, DAMN"), easily the night's highlight for me.

Maybe it's just that the WTT material still needs to set in, but most of it came across as cagey and uninspired. Save "No Church in the Wild," for which Kanye's verse will undoubtedly top my year end list of favorites to belt along with, windows down in my car ("LAST NIGHT WAS MAD REAL"). Show-opening "H.A.M." worked as well, allowing me a glimpse at the track in the environment for which it was conceived: a stadium packed with 20K people collectively losing their shit in anticipation.

Oh yeah, then there was "Niggas In Paris." Maybe you've heard by now, but they played it six times. In a row. Once presumably to close out the set. Then asking the crowd to get live before Hov shouted "AGAIN," and we all balled so hard motherfuckers wanted to fine us. Then they left the stage, came back, and dropped it again. Alerted us that the record for most times they've played it at a stop on this tour was five, set in Atlantic City and Miami. And finally three more times, granting us bragging rights, for now at least. Who knows? By the time they reach the mid-December tour closer in Vancouver, they could just be playing "Niggas In Paris" for three straight hours.

While this may sound absurd on every level, it actually worked, mostly because everyone in the building recognized the absurdity. By the time they asked us all to stand on our seats in exchange for the sixth go around, I was keeled over, nearly pissing my pants at the charades happening on stage. Hard to imagine any other act pulling off this cray shit. I saw M83 on Sunday night and wouldn't have minded if he dropped "Midnight City" six times in a row. I'm going to see Bob Seger in Worcester next Tuesday. Maybe he'll play "Night Moves" six times.

Also worth mentioning was the duo's varying dispositions. As always, Jay lit up the jumbotrons with his contagious grin, while Kanye looked very much on edge, like he was constantly on the verge of either running offstage in a crying fit or Ron Artest-ing someone in the audience. It was of my belief that he exorcised his "inner demons" via Dark Twisted Fantasy, but you wouldn't think that watching him on stage. Here's to his next album being similarly batshit as his previous one.

And lastly, and certainly least, where the fuck was Memphis Bleek? Jay's life-long hype man was nowhere to be found Monday night, presumably subjected to roadie duties thanks to the emergence of Hov's new BFFL. Someone put that bro on suicide watch. 

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