New York: Jay-Z and Eminem kicked off the first concert at the new Yankee Stadium on Monday with a dizzying spectacle worthy of rap`s two biggest stars.
A menacing burst of rain before the show yielded to clear skies, foreshadowing an evening of ups and downs, missteps and triumph and a relentless verbal assault during a once-in-a-lifetime showcase featuring some of the biggest names in pop music.
Billed as the Home and Home tour, the show was part of a double-header featuring both headliners in their respective hometowns. Prior to Labor Day weekend, they appeared at a two-night stand at Comerica Park in Detroit, where Eminem headlined; Monday night it was Jay-Z`s turn. That`s the extent of the "tour," which made this such a hard ticket to come by.
Spanning more than four hours, the show ran like a hip-hop Love Boat on sweeps-week steroids, with a glittering array of guest stars. Short sets by newcomers B.o.B and J. Cole opened the show to pump up the crowd, but when Eminem took the stage at 8:30, they were quickly forgotten. Wearing a black hoodie and shorts, Em came out swinging, punching the air as he blazed into "Won`t Back Down" from his chart-topping "Recovery." He seemed as if he had something to prove, forcefully spitting song`s the vicious rhymes, bobbing and weaving, holding his microphone close to his mouth.
That style served him well in the grand setting as he took his fight to the 50,000 cheering fans as he moved from new material to old during his 90 minutes. Duets with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent were highlights of his set, as he let the rappers take one for themselves (Dre on "Nuthin` but a `G` Thang," 50 on "In Da Club"). But Eminem`s scorching encore of "Lose Yourself," the best song Oscar winner from his autobiographical "8 Mile," punctuated with fireworks, could have ended the night right there.
If Eminem came to show and prove, Jay-Z came to show off. Two hours later, the rap mogul emerged from the floor of the stage amid smoke and fanfare from his live band and DJ. Leather jacket and sunglasses in effect, he called, "New York, wassup?" -- and the intro to "Dynasty" got the kids back up on their seats. Jay showed off his flow, which was as cool as ever, but he also showed off his friends, which was exhausting.
In no time, he was joined by a red leather-clad Kanye West for "Run This Town" and "Power." West seemed a bit hoarse (perhaps from his flight east after Sunday`s MTV Video Music Awards), which only made Jay`s flow seem so much smoother and easier to comprehend. Perhaps to make things easier on the eyes for the males in attendance, the oddball rap chanteuse Nicki Minaj appeared for "Monster." Although her Day Glo camp look is terribly distracting, her rhymes and delivery were arresting.
West overstayed his welcome, but Eminem returned for a duet on "Renegade" before Jay-Z finally took sole command of the stage to rip the hits "99 Problems," "Jigga What, Jigga Who," "Big Pimpin` " and "Hard Knock Life." As if hits weren`t enough to sustain the already over-stimulated crowd, Chris Martin from Coldplay appeared to perform the piano-driven "Heart of the City." This gave way to Martin singing "Viva La Vida," which brought cheers and guffaws -- has Jay never seen "The 40 Year Old Virgin?"
Shortly afterward, the headliner was joined by Drake ("Light Up") and then his wife Beyonce on "Young Forever." And just when it seemed as if things were winding down, the ubiquitous New York anthem "Empire State of Mind" was called in, with Bridget Kelly taking the pregnant Alicia Keys` part. Jay continued on with several more numbers before wrapping it up at 12:45 a.m.
It was an amazing night, worthy of comparisons to the Rolling Stones and Springsteen -- though after four hours, one can see why these things don`t happen every day.