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Jay-Z And Kanye West ‘Watch The Throne’, Manchester Arena

Lynda Moyo heads to the Manchester Arena for BOGOF rappers

Written by . Published on June 12th 2012.

Jay-Z And Kanye West ‘Watch The Throne’, Manchester Arena

JAY-Z and Kanye West’s joint ‘Watch The Throne’ tour is one of the best value for money gigs going this year. Without sounding like a Safestyle UK advert, you buy one you get one free. But that’s not where the value ends.

Creativity and themes on stage are normally reserved for pop princess with high energy dance routines and abundant costume changes. In the hip-hop kingdom it’s always been a more straight forward operation; a rapper and all his mates on stage for just another hip-hop show. But if anyone was going to change the game, it was always going to be these two.

I lost track of how many times they performed it – six, maybe seven times - but each time was more raucous and intense than the last.

Appearing on two hydraulic stages in the middle of Manchester Arena amid a hectic display of laser beams they launched straight into ‘H.A.M’ in a blow for blow trade off of lyrics. The crowd clearly couldn’t decide who they wanted to scream at more as they stood on opposing podiums making it clear they’re still very much individual forces to be reckoned with.

As the stages elevated high into the air to the operatic vocals in 'H.A.M', all eyes were up in adulation at the men in black atop boxes decorated with jungle animal visuals. Looking down at the lion’s den of rampant fans, they fed us with‘Otis’ and ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ before unexpectedly pushing pause on Watch The Throne.

Jay Z and Kanye West at Manchester Arena

While the show may be named after their collaborative album, the set list is laden with the pair’s individual back catalogues. Ultimately it’s two concerts bound together by a mutual respect that’s clear for all to see, and the crowd lapped up every last lyric.

Performing one iconic hip-hop track after another , 42-year-old Jay-Z couldn’t hide is joy hearing a crowd of all ages and races join in with tracks such as ‘Where I’m From’ from as far back as 15-years-ago intermixed with current classics such as ‘Empire State Of Mind’ which featured the Manchester crowds vocals on the chorus. “You sound so beautiful tonight" said Jay-Z. Alicia Keys ain’t got nothing on us.

Kanye too brought out the big guns with ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’, ‘Stronger’ and ‘Touch The Sky’ during his solo spots, but the highlight had to be ‘Jesus Walks’ in which he showed off his trademark frantic Jesus Walks dance, as only Kanye knows how. He was energetic and confident with sweat pouring from his brow as he almost got lost in his own genius.

But as we all know with Kanye, sometimes he can take it too far and the inclusion of 'Runaway' and 'Heartless' from his last two solo albums hit a flat note for most. It’s not that they’re bad songs, albeit far from his best, but ten minutes of auto tune singing is enough to make anyone’s ears bleed. The only saving grace would have been for Jay-Z to appear singing ‘D.O.A’ (Death of Autotune) but sadly Jay allowed Kanye’s ego to loom over their concert temporarily.

Kanye West at Manchester Arena

Nevertheless, this section by no means ruined the show and ‘All Of The Lights’ was the perfect opportunity for Kanye to get the crowd back on side.

As he belted out the lyrics ‘Something’s wrong, I hold my head, MJ gone...’ the crowd participation for the next line wasn’t what it should have been, causing Kanye to rewind the track and tell everyone, no matter what colour or creed that this was their one moment to shout the one word, so tainted by history yet heavily featured in hip-hop culture, at the top of their lungs.

The reaction was palpable as the entire arena shouted the lyrics ‘Our nigga dead’ in reference to Michael Jackson’s passing. It was a real moment, specifically for the die-hard, young, white, male hip-hop fans (of which there were plenty) who’d probably been reluctantly mumbling that lyric for months.

A clever skit followed, playing on song titles and lyrics to the story of Kanye’s love life and introducing commercial favourites ‘Big Pimpin’, ‘Gold Digger’ and ’99 Problems’. There was also a segment of video footage in the run up to the pair’s latest single ‘No Church in the Wild’ with images of natural disasters and pivotal moments of world history, distancing the pair from featherweight hip-hop artists who can still only manage to rap about wealth and women.

Jay Z and Kanye West 'Watch The Throne' Manchester

And then to the finale, and what a finale it was. If you’ve read reviews from other legs of this tour, you’ll have heard that ‘Niggas in Paris’ is the finale and encore track of no fixed limits.

It’s ambitious, almost cocky, to believe a song is good enough to sing more than twice, but believe me when I say that one song is a show in itself.

I lost track of how many times they performed it – six, maybe seven times - but each time was more raucous and intense than the last and every single person was left hoping they’d shout ‘Again’ just once more.

Clearly a song designed with full scale gigs in mind with its heavy bass line and grimey hook, the mosh pit would have given a Prodigy gig a run for its money as Kanye told the pit party “We want you to remember this moment for the rest of your life”.

Sadly the CD will never be able to this song justice again for anyone who attended, but the memory of that moment will, just as Kanye said. I suggest if you have even a slight inclination to see either of these artists live, don’t miss this opportunity. You won’t regret it.

Jay-Z and Kanye West play at Manchester Arena for the second night on Tuesday 12 June. Tickets are still available here.

Watch Jay-Z and Kanye West's first perfomance of 'Niggas in Paris' in Manchester below:

Follow Lynda on Twitter @lyndamoyo

Main photos by Emma Golpys.

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RhymesJune 13th 2012.

If you like hip-hop, you might like my blog, Rhymes and Reasons. It’s a series of interviews with hip-hop heads who discuss their lives and a few songs that matter to them. Pretty powerful stuff. Check’em out here:


Georgina Hague shared this on Facebook on June 13th 2012.
Joe-ZJune 13th 2012.

As one of your aforementioned middle-class white boys , I did indeed feel euphoric release as I guiltlessly sent forth the N-Bomb high into The O2 sky.

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