Published Nov 24, 2011Without a time machine and some serious reflection, it's impossible to say if this is the best concert tour in history, but as seasoned concertgoers attend Kanye West and Jay-Z's "Watch the Throne" shows, they're experiencing a truly awe-inspiring spectacle of historic proportions. The fact that the biggest stars in hip-hop have come together to create such an explosive, breathtaking night, which seamlessly displays their strengths as showmen and artists, is really something else.
In Toronto, the show was joyous, but it also had the makings of a relentless attack -- an endless barrage of hits from a charismatic tag team who seemed unstoppable. Ye and Jigga came out facing each other on stages at opposite ends of the arena to the fanfare of "H.A.M.," the early single that launched this whole collaboration. What appeared to be a relatively minimal yet artful live set-up quickly elevated, literally, as both rappers' stages transformed into cubes, which rose up, placing them high above the floor. The cubes would come up and down throughout the show for dramatic effect and they double as giant screens adorned by various film clips of sharks and wildcats and what have you. It was a very cool, deft touch.
The early set leaned heavily on the inexplicably maligned Watch the Throne, which got nothing but love from the adoring crowd. Otis Redding's voice filled the arena on "Try a Little Tenderness," enabling Jay-Z to invisibly make his way across the arena onto the main stage so he and Kanye could destroy the audience with "Otis."
One of the big mysteries of the tour was how the rap superheroes would handle their own catalogues in this configuration. Hov has historically been gracious on co-headlining tours with Mary J. Blige and his ill-fated trek with R. Kelly. Aside from the few shows he did with Eminem recently, however, he's not shared a bill with someone who arguably rivals his own impact and influence on the culture like Yeezy.
Again, though, the show was thoughtfully put together with solo segments featuring extensive offerings from their respectively remarkable catalogues; Jay-Z broke into crowd-pleasing classics like "Where I'm From" and "Nigga What, Nigga Who" on his own, while Kanye offered a smattering of songs from every single one of his albums. But there were enough segues where the two could make appearances together on non-WTT tracks like "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" and just back each other up.
The most indulgent and stirring moment of the show featured a tense Kanye emoting through "Runaway" and "Heartless," playing off the wounded, self-lacerating tone of these songs before visibly snarling to psyche himself up for a triumphant "Stronger." The hits just kept on coming; the ACC might have exploded after the one-two punch of "Gold Digger" and "99 Problems," and then, as they've been doing elsewhere, the duo reveled in the hilarity of "Niggas in Paris" by playing the song three times in a row and storming off into the night.
There's hype and then there's seeing something truly remarkable that will live on in your mind forever. This show easily proved to be the latter as it became a shockingly effortless display of dominance by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
You can watch some live footage from the night's show in the videos posted below.