Last night Jay-Z and Kanye West kicked off the first of two shows at Madison Square Garden for their Watch The Throne tour. Hovering above a crowd displaying their finest sequined and fur belongings, the two appeared like two star-crossed lovers, with Jay in the middle of the audience and Kanye on stage, separated by twinkling lights. They quickly opened with "H.A.M." and upon its conclusion their platforms were raised fifty feet in the air, standing on cubes projecting LED images of sharks and rottwilers. These images may have had something to do with reassuring New York of Kanye's manhood as he was wearing a shirt-dress and a leather kilt, no doubt styled by Yeezy himself. They went on for a few more WTT songs before being lowered to the ground, after which they joined each other on stage for a patriotic roaring anthem of "Otis," back dropped with an American flag and fireballs.
Throughout the night the rappers would give each other time to run throw a few of their own tracks with Jay throwing out some crowd favorites ("Public Service Announcement," "Hard Knock Life," "Izzo") and Kanye ranging from older songs ("Jesus Walks," "Get 'Em High") to some tracks where he really brought on his emotional prowess ("Runaway"). Kanye's nine minute long rendition of "Runaway" was by far the strangest performance I have ever seen by a rapper, but then we have to remember that Kanye West is one weird guy. In between "Heartless" and "Runaway," Kanye took uncomfortably long pauses with eyes closed, while the entire audience collectively prayed that he wouldn't start crying. I'm not sure whether Kanye was expecting to be hand delivered a Tony award at the end of the night, but I do know is that it made me very uncomfortable and I had to momentarily look away. With every outfit change brought on a new persona for Kanye, whether it was cool and collected, or like an emotionally strung out man in a dress. I have never seen something more visually pleasing, yet mentally unstable than Kanye West skipping up and down the stage and twirling in his skirt, a routine that brought to mind the Maori Haka tribal dance.
Although we have to give Kanye some credit for trying, this was the Jay-Z show. Without going in to who the better rapper is (Ok, it's obviously Jay-Z), last night was really a way of contrasting their styles and approach to the genre. Jay's a talented man who doesn't seem caught up with appearances, while Kanye had four outfit changes, a rotating light prism engulfing him, and seemed to serve as both the performer and the guy in charge of light check, making sure everything he did was fashionable, modern, and creative. Jay-Z went a cappella on several of his tracks and had next to no set design, instilling wholesomeness in his craft.
The best moments were of course when Jay went solo and when the two came together for some WTT crowd pleasers. They played "Ni**as in Paris" not once, not twice, but THREE times in a row. The crowd had a general sense of confusion, but shared a unanimous feeling that it was just too good to be true. The two rappers provided some on-stage comedy, with Kanye theatrically asking for more lights during "All Of The Lights," a performance of "Gold Digger" with was followed by "99 Problems," and Kanye forgetting the lyrics to "Touch The Sky" while still managing to not lose his cool. Last night's show was a mix of amazing and ridiculous, with Kanye taking credit for the latter. In the great metropolis of New York, I was definitely a little disappointed that there weren't any guest acts (namely Beyonce and the future lil' Carter), but the two put on a thoroughly entertaining show that left me little to complain about. When one of the biggest male rappers in the world manages to wear two skirts in one night, it's going to be a night to remember.