With every album comes a tour, and the case was no different with “Watch the Throne.” Jay-Z and Kanye West have embarked on a nationwide tour, and fortunately I was able to see them in Pittsburgh on Nov. 27. Beginning at 9:20, Jay and ‘Ye opened with a stellar rendition of “H.A.M.” and never looked back.
See the Throne
This is Kanye and Jay we’re talking about, so grandiosity is a given. Kanye and Jay stood on raised platforms which showed videos of snarling dogs and then sharks, giving the impression they were rapping on top of a shark tank. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds. The lights were also extravagant and were reminiscent of Yeezy’s “Glow in the Dark Tour” back in ’08. However, the best visual effects were the screens backing Kanye when they left their platforms and shared a stage. The screens displayed video clips from history; atrocities and evils of the world (including a horrifying image of a young boy dressed in a KKK outfit) played in intentional irony as Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” preceded “No Church in the Wild.” Not every clip was a downer, though; images of Dr. King and Malcolm X had me transfixed while Jigga and Kanye performed “Made in America.”
Two is better than one
The advantage of touring with one another is that each rapper gets to take a breather. Kanye took the stage solo for quite a while, pouring his soul into “Runaway” and delivering a spirited performance of “Jesus Walks.” During the latter, he got on his knees and rapped with his eyes closed. He also brought his wit to Pittsburgh. “God invented emails so guys could get away with shit,” he quipped. For his part, Jay played throwbacks for the real fans, including “Where I’m From,” and “Public Service Announcement.” Nearing 42, Shawn Carter hasn’t lost a step.
While the duo certainly made their show larger than life, the most powerful moments were when they joked back and forth and rapped together like they were hanging out on a porch or a street corner. Kanye’s role as the cop on the second verse of “99 Problems” was especially memorable. The greatest moment of the concert was when Kanye and Jay sat on chairs on the stage, hunched over and rapping in barely-raised voices. Kanye professed that his verse on “New Day” is his favorite he’s ever done, and Jay looked like he was going to break down crying when he rapped to his future newborn. Too real.
The Bottom Line
The duo played nearly every song from “Watch the Throne,” including “N****s in Paris” five times in a row to close out the nearly two-and-a-half hour show. There was no opening act or surprise appearance. Just two great artists and good friends putting on a live, extra-hype show for a willing crowd. What’s better than that?