Friday 19 January 2018

Pop: Jay-Z and Kanye West at the o2, dublin

john meagher

Rappers don't do recession. Well, maybe the up-and-coming ones do, but the R-word does not feature prominently in the repertoire of Jay-Z and Kanye West -- the duo who stride through the hip-hop world like colossi.

They wear their bling with pride and West -- whose birthday it is tonight -- informs us that his new girlfriend, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian, gifted him a Lamborghini sports car.

Self-aggrandisement has long been West's stock-in-trade. But his cocksure pose is just about tolerable thanks to an innate talent -- especially evident when revisiting songs from his awesome 2010 solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Jay-Z, by contrast, is a little more humble and while he may not command a stage quite as spectacularly as his younger collaborator, he is the better rapper and far less reliant on Auto-Tune voice manipulation than West is.

Ostensibly, the pair are on tour to promote their hit-and-miss album, Watch the Throne, but the bulk of the show is fleshed out with greatest hits from both men's careers. And when one considers just how big these songs have been over the past decade or so, it's no surprise that The O2 is in party-mode.

Quite how much of the music is provided by their band or from backing tape is anyone's guess. The notion of interacting with musicians appears to be anathema for both who prefer to rap along to the soundtrack either on stage alone or together.

Of West's material, 'Monster' and 'Runaway' are delivered especially well, while a euphoric take on 'Touch the Sky' confirms his showman prowess.

Disappointingly, he can't quite keep his routine together for 'Gold Digger', although with 14,000 people lending their vocal support, the cracks are papered over.

Jay-Z brags of being "the new Sinatra" on an exemplary 'Empire State of Mind' and displays a compellingly muscular rapping style on '99 Problems'. He's less effective on 'Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)' -- one of his signature songs, which co-opts a celebrated nursery rhyme chorus from the musical, Annie.

In the region of 40 songs are performed, although some are mere fragments. The potency of the performance ebbs away towards the end and the closer -- a long, self-indulgent, take on 'Niggas in Paris' -- finds some concert goers beating a hasty retreat to the exits.

Irish Independent

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