It would be easy (and almost necessary) to spill an ocean of superlatives in trying to adequately explain the enormity of this entire Watch The Throne endeavor. Sure, it’s easy to chalk it up as a couple of 1 Percenters flexing their considerable industry muscle, and that’s a part of it.
Only a few songs into Monday night’s sold out show, it was apparent that this bombastic display of hip-hop’s considerable hold on the pop cultural zeitgeist was more than just a good time. It was one of the most impressively produced stadium shows, well, ever. The Staples Center was transformed into something of a giant boxing ring, with Jay-Z and Kanye West standing atop two massive hydraulic LED stages to open the show with a flurry of songs from the Watch The Throne album. The spectacle was akin to a rap Metallica (and just as loud), with both men ripping through verses from “Welcome To The Jungle” with ease and dexterity that transcends 99.5% of what passes for “rapping” these days. Flames towers erupted behind them at regular intervals, and the blinding laser light show was equal parts Daft Punk and Pink Floyd.
When the show transitioned into Jay-Z and West trading blocks of songs from their individual catalogs, the cavalcade of hits was staggering. “Gold Digger,” “99 Problems,” “Flashing Lights,” “Big Pimping” — it was like every great moment you had on a nightclub dance floor over the past ten years wrapped up in a heavyweight rap battle.
Kanye West had an interesting, um, stage direction moment when trying to perform “All of the Lights,” restarting the number no less than three times when the lighting cues failed to live up to his expectations (“Let’s do it like we did in practice!” He pleaded at one point).
Of course, there is the already-legendary finale of “Niggas In Paris” performed as many times as the crowd with allow it. It’s already the 2011 Song of The Year for 2011, so dropping it rewind style (or “taking it back to the Showtime days”, as Jay-Z put it during the show) is a powerful — and hilarious — way to reinforce the point. They pushed the meme to new extreme last night, rocking the track a “record” nine times in a row (the most of the tour so far), pushing the show past midnight.
It’s a lot to take in, especially on a school night. But if you’re up to it, the Watch The Throne tour is ready to party like it’s already New Year’s Eve.
Before they finally surrendered the arena, Kanye West, as always, had to have the last word: “Sorry if this was your first concert,” he laughed over the cheers. “It’s all downhill from here.”