Last night we caught up with the Watch The Throne tour in DC, and we were positively blown away. From the moment Jay-Z and Kanye West took to the stage and the audience erupted into a deafening roar, to the moment when the powerful pair closed with explosions and Hov’s “Encore,” we were on our feet with our hands in the air, dancing as if we were on Mount Olympus, partying with the Gods. Gods indeed — Hov and Yeezy commanded the reverent audience with the infallibility of deities, as both crowd and performers seemed indubitably ensconced in Watch The Throne dogma.
The show began with Jay and Kayne rising into the air on huge flashing cubes on opposite sides of the arena, rapping violently to “H.A.M” and inciting the audience into a fist pumping frenzy. True to form, Yeezy was wearing a leather skirt, which during the course of the show only amplified his jubilant unpredictability and erratic persona. The two continued with hits (aren’t they all?) from Watch The Throne “Who Gon Stop Me,” “Otis,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” and “Gotta Have It” before Jay-Z took off on his own for “Where I’m From” and “N—- What, N—- Who.” Kayne Came Back with one of our personal favorites, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” but it wasn’t until “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” followed by Jay-Z’s reemergence for “Public Service Announcement” that it became clear — Jesus really does walk, not in the shadow of, but side-by-side with God.
The show really affirmed the unassailable dominance of Jay-Z and Kayne West. While the Watch The Throne album was met with mixed reviews, the sheer power born of the momentous union of hip hop’s most influential is undeniable. On one hand, you have Jay-Z — the veteran, a consummate performer, immaculate and commanding. On the other, Kanye — wild, passionate, revolutionary, fearless and heartbreakingly sincere. Put the two together and the result is simply breathtaking. From Jay-Z’s virtuoso ‘a capella’ raps, his unerring cool, calm, connectedness and humbling presence, the crowd swelled and numbed, succumbing to his directions; hands in the air, show him your diamonds, get cray, no girl, more cray than that! And from Kanye’s paroxysm of dance, his energetic sprints across stage, the awe and respect with which he interacted with Jay-Z the crowd allowed itself to believe, to become enraptured and to shed all inhibitions.
Watching the two performing together was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and we imagine it will be difficult for anything to come close again. Even in the slower moments, Kayne’s earnest “Runaway” and “Heartless,” his pleading for audience members to hold the ones they love, nothing came across as trite or insincere. Which is perhaps why we love Kanye so much; he truly loves and believes in everything he does, and isn’t afraid to make mistakes musically, stylistically, or in life. There are few performers who are so willing to bare themselves so soulfully before a world of critics; and here lies Yeezy’s truest charm, his vulnerability.
After Kanye’s emotional tête-à-tête with the audience, Hov took over and got the crowd cranking again with classic “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” before the two reunited for “That’s My Bitch.” Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin'” proved a crowd pleaser, but we personally loved the cheesy banter between Hov and Yeezy leading into “Gold Digger.” Jay-Z supported Kayne as he rapped his hit song by leading the crowd in chants and claps, and once the song ended Hov’s scripted line, “Well, I’ve only got one thing to say to you Yeez…” breaking into “99 Problems,” was slightly adorable in it’s overt dorkiness. With the crowd whipped to fever pitch, the pair sang “No Church In The Wild” which saw Kanye doing a very endearing interpretive dance to Hov’s lyrics.
Closing with “N—- In Paris,” the crowd’s screams became deafening, and even more so when, after exiting the stage, Hov and Yeez came back to reprise the song. Ending on Jay-Z’s “Encore”, the two seemed both fulfilled and elated as they playfully tousled with each other and thanked the audience. By the time the lights came on the crowd was delirious, exhausted and mystified, and as hoards of people exited the Verizon Center there was only a quiet buzz of conversation. It seemed like everyone was dumbstruck, processing what they had just seen; trying to come to terms with the fact that they may have just witnessed the will of divinity.
[Photo: Getty Images]