Jay-Z / N.E.R.D. / Wale Saddle Dome, Calgary, AB October 15
Published Oct 15, 2009Wale's opening set proved to be frustrating, though it wasn't his fault. The deeply talented newcomer dropped a number of exciting tracks from both his mixtapes and his anticipated Attention: Deficit full-length, but his impeccable flow on the mic and his charming stage presence were plagued by an endlessly annoying backing band. It's shameful, really, that so many live hip-hop acts refuse to just play the songs, instead vying for some technical skill competition that results in cheeseball guitar solos and way too much slap bass (even for a rapper who made an album out of the Seinfeld theme).
Fortunately, N.E.R.D. were close by to blow the wanking studio musicians out of the water with their loud, heavy sound. Playing their barrage of hits, the band did what they do best, hyping up Jay-Z's arrival and getting the crowd on their feet. Though he's a wizard in the studio, Pharrell doubles as a tireless performer, giving it to the crowd like a front-man for a wild rock band.
But whatever hype Pharrell created turned into pandemonium when Jay-Z emerged through a trapdoor on the stage. Opening with the one-two punch of new hits "Run This Town" and "Death of Autotune," the rap legend proved his merit song after song.
Sure, the set lagged with unnecessary medleys and some of the more lousy Blueprint 3 tracks, but they were mere moments of weakness in an otherwise airtight performance. Jay's band, the Roc Boys, played the songs tastefully, only letting their chops loose when required, which resulted in a stadium full of bass.
Jay flawlessly rapped almost every single classic song expected of him, and yet the show ended feeling like it could have continued forever. Matching his lovable persona with an unbeatable stage presence, Jay-Z proved that, even as he's nearing 40, he truly is the king of modern hip-hop.