Surprisingly, Kanye West wearing a Givenchy skirt Monday, the second night of his and Jay-Z's "Watch The Throne" stop at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was hardly among the most climatic moments of the two-in-a-half hour show.
The hip-hop luminaries, who released their collab album "Watch The Throne" in August, wowed the crowd with their captivating laser show, set list that fused songs from their catalogs, multiple philosophical moments, and closing with the record-breaking 9 performances of "N*ggas In Paris."
Several times throughout the night, West reminded audience members to pursue their dreams. When performing the "Watch The Throne" song "Made In America" he spoke about some of his personal tragedies as an image of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was projected on the backdrop.
"I almost died in a car accident about 10 years ago, but God brought me back for a reason," he said. "Now, I am here with my idol."
After the song, he revealed that he contemplated suicide three years ago. "I came back. Two albums and more [Grammy] nominations than anybody," he said.
The artist often criticized for being egotistical made a case for having confidence. "Everybody always says, 'Be humble. Be humble.' When the last time somebody told you to be great, be amazing, be awesome. Be awesome!"
West and Jay-Z both displayed their normal dispositions. West, the more emotional and colorful of the two, wore the black leather skirt, instructed the band to start over three times his Grammy nominated "All Of The Lights" due to problems with the lasers, and offered the audience advice on goals and love.
Jay-Z never broke his cool, except for moments when he blushed in response to the overwhelming favorable reaction from the crowd. Jay-Z was most candid when he and West sat down on the side of the stage to rap "New Day," their introspective song about fatherhood produced by the Wu Tang Clan's RZA. Though Jay-Z didn't alter any of the lyrics or make any reference to the fact that his wife Beyonce is pregnant with their first child, after performing the track, he offered the subtle, "Thanks for that moment L.A." before sending out a shout to the parents "that take care of they kids."
Jay ended the majority of his songs a capella.
The coolest aspect of the night was watching the seamlessness of the set list unfold. They opened with "Watch The Throne" songs "Who Gon Stop Me," and "Welcome To The Jungle."
West offered the night's first solo set, delivering "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," "Jesus Walks," and "Diamonds From Sierra Leone."
As with most of the night's transitions, when one of the acts was on his last song of his brief solo stretch, the other returned to the stage, and provided some hype man services before taking the figurative baton.
They performed the majority of their most popular songs. From Jay, that included "Empire State Of Mind," "99 Problems," "On To The Next," "I Just Wanna Love You," "H To The Izzo," "Big Pimpin'," "Hard Knock Life," and "Jigga What, Jigga Who," among others.
When Jay performed "Big Pimpin'," he rapped the verse of featured artist, the late Pimp C, adopting the UGK member's rhyme style and pitch. It was the only time they included the rap of a guest artist.
Kanye performed more of his songs as well, among them, "Heartless," "Good Life," "Touch The Sky," "Gold Digger," "Monster," and "Runaway."
Instead of displaying clips of their music videos with their songs, they used provocative imagery — vicious dogs, killer sharks, cheetahs, and police cars.
Arguably, the most chilling footage was juxtaposed during a special playing of Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." In place of depicting pleasantries, they showed clips of the Ku Klux Klan, burning cars, dog fighting, and people being baptized.
Some of the footage was used along with the following song, "Watch The Throne"'s intro track "No Church In The Wild."
They quickly abandoned the solemn tone with the Beyonce collab "Lift Up" before moving into the most hype moment of the night, "N-ggas In Paris," for which they performed nine times. This broke the Chicago record of eight times.
The laser show was excellent the entire night. The beams fluctuated with the music, changed colors, and sometimes enclosed the rappers in spinning pyramids.
But the best light works took place during the thunder and lightning sequence during the 30-plus minute "N-ggas In Paris" epilogue.
I don't have any criticisms. Before the show started, I was annoyed that the concert did not begin at 7:30 as printed on the tickets. The audience waited until 9:20 before the show kicked off. I initially thought they needed opening acts or even a DJ to entertain the concertgoers. But after watching the show and having a better understanding of the combined set lists, multiple stages, and general mood, I think it was best that Jay and Kanye were the only two artists on the bill.
Any frustration I felt from waiting one hour and 50 minutes dissipated once I saw Jay-Z and Kanye elevate 30-plus feet up on their separate illuminated risers that also acted as projectors.
The show was so good that it made Kanye apologize to the audience as they exited the stage.
"Sorry if this is your first concert. It's all downhill from here," he said.
I would have to agree. It's going to be hard to top this one.
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