Last Friday, Birmingham saw the two biggest hip-hop stars of the moment throw one hell of a party on the last night of their Watch The Throne tour.
On opener ‘H.A.M’, Kanye West and Jay-Z rose from two opposing stages onto huge cubes in a kind of God-like battle that set the tone for the evening. The competitive nature of these two showmen was evident from the off-set but the power they produced together is where this show really made its impact.
Standing side by side in front of the American flag for Watch The Throne hit, ‘Otis’, they showed the fun side to their partnership. Bouncing around the stage, their arrogance slipped a little as they danced along with the crowd, proving they were in as good a spirits as their audience were.
The next two hours were an unrelenting master-class in how to put on perhaps the biggest rap show Birmingham has seen, with the pair teaming up for tracks from their joint album and then individually owning the stage with some of their greatest solo hits.
Jay-Z’s performance confirmed his legendary status in rap and why it is so deserved. His ease of delivery and command over the crowd was impressive. ‘Empire State of Mind’ was thrilling, as the man himself explained that he wanted to take us to ‘where he was from’. And so ‘New York, New York’ rang around the stadium before the beat kicked in. ‘On To The Next One’ complete with a Justice ‘D.A.N.C.E’ sample sent the whole stadium into a frenzy too.
An injection of tenderness amongst the showmanship was the stripped back performance of ‘New Day’ that the duo gave, sitting next to each to other, contemplating the future.
In-between, West brought some of his biggest hits to life with a powerful, breath-taking ‘Jesus Walks’ stealing the show. This meant a slightly self-indulgent performance of ‘Runaway’, with his signature electronic vocal, was almost totally forgiven as he already had the entire audience in the palm of his hand. Tonight he more than proved he deserved to share the stage with Jay-Z.
When the pair came together to perform their two biggest hits ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘99 Problems’, the energy they injected in to each other’s songs was awesome. ‘No Church In The Wild’ also provided a real moment, accompanied with riot footage on two huge screens behind the rappers. It was powerful and compelling to witness, proving that tracks from Watch The Throne can easily stand up next to their individual, colossal hits. But it was the trademark encore of ‘N****s in Paris’, which Birmingham were treated to five times, that ended the show, complete with Beyoncé moshing in the crowd and champagne spraying.
The two rappers were celebrating the end to an impressive tour and they gave Birmingham every last bit of energy they had and the audience repaid them dutifully. How could you not be impressed?