At first it seemed more like a movie premiere than a concert. Outside, black Escalades sat along the sidewalk like a string of bulky metallic rosary beads, punctuated by the occasional pearly Maybach or Rolls Royce. Inside, a red carpet led the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Diddy to their seats.
But when the lights went down at Madison Square Garden last night a little before 10pm, the glitz dimmed as well, and two old friends traded rhymes for over two hours as a sellout crowd looked on. For all its pretensions–starting with the title–Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour presented the two Cash Kings in a refreshingly uncomplicated and accessible light.
Of course, there were a few flourishes: the ten-foot plumes of flame that spouted from the stage at random intervals, the giant blocks that occasionally emerged from the ground to physically elevate the rappers, and the Discovery Channel-esque reel of wild critters playing in the background (think Ratatat concert visuals, but replace the budgies with panthers). And then there was Kanye’s outfit–a souvenir t-shirt featuring a tiger’s face superimposed over his own, worn on top of what appeared to be a leather skirt and tight leather pants.
But for the most part Watch the Throne, the tour, was a much more inclusive endeavor than Watch the Throne, the album. The latter billed itself as “luxury rap,” with Kanye styling himself the Hermès of Verses and Jay-Z reasserting himself as King Hov, while both taunted audiences (“Can’t you see the private jets flying over you?”) and foes alike with their wealth (“Really, you got baby money“).
At Madison Square Garden, though, the two rappers achieved something much more inclusive. Midway through the show, they sat down on the stage together and rapped their way through the thoughtful “New Day” as though discussing it on a stoop over a beer. And they played the song whose radio-edited title is “Paris” three times, just because.
This story was originally published by yours truly on Forbes.com — click the following link to read the rest of “Watching Jay-Z And Kanye West’s Throne at MSG“