Published Jan 28, 2014"Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Hov."
While "Public Service Announcement" may not have made an appearance until near the end of his set, the opening lines asserted what was clear from the start of it — Jay Z is back at the top of his live game.
A mere 24 hours after he and Beyonce stole the show at the Grammys, Jay stormed onstage at the Air Canada Centre and launched into Blueprint classic "U Don't Know." The throwback opener was a big step towards redemption in the wake of a year that saw the release of the lacklustre Magna Carta Holy Grail and taking a back seat to Justin Timberlake on their Legends of Summer double-headliner tour, reminding onlookers why Jay Z is so respected in the first place.
As it is the Magna Carta World Tour, the set was heavy on tracks from his latest album, but the likes of "Crown," "Tom Ford" and tired-out first single "Holy Grail" got new life in a live environment. And despite last year's buzzed-about six-hour straight performance of "Picasso Baby," Hov's vigorous delivery didn't let on that there was even a slight chance anyone could be sick of it.
The rest of the setlist read like a greatest hits of Jay Z's impossibly wide-reaching career. Delivering everything from "Dead Presidents II," "Hard Knock Life," "Big Pimpin,'" "I Just Wanna Love U," "Izzo," "99 Problems," "On to the Next One" and "Niggas in Paris" to that song about cake from Drake's Nothing Was the Same, it's no wonder Hova gave the stage to longtime collaborator Timbaland midway through the set for a brief interlude.
Besides the hits, though, Jay Z was in prime form as an entertainer, personally asking the security guards in the front row to stand down so fans could ball a little bit harder during "Paris," then asking the crowd to slow down the synchronized arm-waving "for the weedsmokers" during "Tom Ford."
Unsurprisingly coming out for a second round to "Encore," Jay continued his still-endearing gimmick of individually shouting out people in the crowd (singing "Happy Birthday" to one and signing another kid's cell phone, for which he warned his mother was "gonna beat your ass.") The show was brought to an end with "Forever Young," as lighters and phones lit up the sea of people that was starting to file out, but not before everyone knew that the spotlight was Jigga's again.