Jay Z at Xcel Energy Center, 11/30/13
|Photo courtesy of Xcel Energy Center by Joe Lemke|
Jay Z has more money than you can fathom, more fame than most entertainers, and sits atop a number of people's lists of greatest MCs. There's nothing he needs to accomplish at this point, and the hunger of an upcoming rapper wasn't exactly there on Saturday at the Xcel.
Instead, his confident strides as a rap legend and his desire to prove he's still got it carried the set, which focused on his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, but sprinkled in plenty of classics. Part of Jay's legacy is evolving a slower style with emphasis that made each line hit on a conceptual level, which was especially evident live when he brought specific lines to life by stating them a certain way.
|Photos courtesy of Xcel Energy Center by Joe Lemke|
Sadly, rap ability is often not the centerpiece of many hip-hop shows these days, but at the core of this larger-than-average concert was a traditionalist sense of old-fashioned skill. Jay's set was long and strong, and he hit every cue with an understated yet consistently pointed stage presence.
Jay split his set in two surrounding Tim's interlude, and eventually continued to an equally lengthy encore -- beginning, of course, with "Encore." There were some omissions that would've been great to hear, as there are with anyone with as expansive a discography, but the setlist was well-chosen and fit the space. My mediocre feelings toward Jay's latest material subsided when I heard it in the context of the giant arenas for which it was presumably written. Everything sounded great and Jay sold even the weakest songs with his powerful performance.
He followed up the line "I will not lose... ever" from "You Don't Know" with a triumphant "I told you!" highlighting that 12 years after the song was written he remains on top. He lingered on the closing line "Somewhere in America / Miley Cyrus is still twerking" from "Somewhereinamerica," and transitioned beautifully into "Big Pimpin'" with a knowing smile. He gleefully ran through Pimp C's verse on "Big Pimpin'" just for the fun of it.