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October 28, 2009

Concert review: Jay-Z at 1st Mariner Arena last night

jay-zFew rappers can make an entrance like Jay-Z.

He didn't just take the stage -- he set a timer first.

Before his sold-out show began last night at 1st Mariner Arena, the THX sound effect boomed through the speakers and digital clocks displayed on the big screens started counting down from 10 minutes. When time ran out, the curtain was pulled back, revealing Jay-Z's tight 10-piece band and a screen shaped like the New York City skyline.

He didn't just walk onto the stage, either. He rose from the floorboards, wearing black shades, black pants, a black shirt and a black leather jacket.

Now that's an entrance.

The rest of the show was everything you'd expect from one of hip-hop's superstars: Swaggering, bragging and furious verses. Jay-Z dominated the mike, and the audience loved nearly every minute of it ...

When Jay-Z told them to bounce, they bounced. When he told them to make some noise, they made some noise, chanting "HOVA" and making his trademark diamond-shaped hand sign. Here is a link to a photo gallery from the show.

Jay-Z's performance was a 90-minute hit parade that toured through "The Black Album," "Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life" and the rapper's latest No. 1 album (his 11th to debut at No. 1, which surpasses Elvis' record, he reminded us last night), "The Blueprint 3."

Longtime collaborator Memphis Bleek joined Jay-Z for much of the show, J. Cole guested on "Every Day A Star Is Born" and singer Bridget Kelly easily held down Alicia Key's parts on "Empire State of Mind."

jayz1stmariner.JPGThe highlights: "Jigga What, Jigga Who" was just dirty; Jay-Z nailed it. "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" had an easygoing groove. And Pharrell joined Jay-Z for a solid performance of the brass heavy, high-stepping "So Ambitious."Jay-Z had the band fade out at the end of several songs so he could deliver the last verse and chorus a capella, which gave the words even more weight.

The show's only stumble was the long, rambling finish. Jay-Z might know how to get a performance rolling, but he had trouble wrapping things up last night.

During the encore, he took about 15 minutes to give shout outs to strangers in the crowd, identifying them by what they were wearing. If you weren't up front, it was incredibly boring, and unsurprisingly, people started leaving early.

Finally, Jay-Z closed out the show with a so-so rendition of "Forever Young" and saluted the crowd while being lowered back down below the stage. Endings aside, last night's show was definitely one for the books.

The opening acts weren't too shabby, either. Washington's own Wale, who looks to be the most promising rapper to come out of the District, warmed up the audience with some heavy-hitting hip-hop (and even a little go-go). During his last song, Wale strode out into the crowd, shaking hands and greeting folks. When his debut "Attention: Deficit" drops Nov. 10, he might not need to introduce himself anymore.

N.E.R.D. hit the stage after Wale, delivering an intense set of rap/funk/hip-hop. Their songs, which seemed too progressive for the crowd, changed tempos more than Madonna changes outfits. The only track that really brought down the house was their closer, Pharrell's "Drop it Like It's Hot."

(Baltimore Sun photos by Kenneth K. Lam)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Concert reviews


Best Concert I have ever been to. I know it won't be that for everyone, but he played every song I would have wanted to hear with one exception (we off that) and the medley near the end was great. Great Energy and NERD was a lot of fun opening.

I've seen N.E.R.D. and the description "too progressive for the crowd" is absolutely true.

Jay was great as usual. His Swagger was at a all time high (if that is possible) The only glitch was he didn't give the crowd a little of Reasonable Doubt. You should never forget where you came from and what put you on the map. Other than that the show was just AWESOME!!!

Sounds like his MSG show that was on TV this past Sept. 11th (which was amazing). Good stuff.

btw, "mic"... not "mike". Just sayin' :p

And I agree about the N.E.R.D. statement. They're meant for listening to at home or in the car.. maybe even a club... but playing live isn't their specialty.

P.S: great pics, but tell your editor that it's "1st Mariner Arena" and not "1st Mariners"

Nitpicking, but want to make sure you guys don't get a call from Ed Hale today :)

This was truly, truly the best show I've ever been to.
I've been to many different kinds of shows (rock, r&b, pop etc) and Jay KILLED em all.
I would pay major money to see him again.
Energy, entertainment... EPIC!!!

Can't decscribe.

Worth EVERY dollar.

The concert was def. great. But i agree with another blogger. I wanted to hear Reasonable Doubt and he didnt do any of it!Other than that the concert was great

Thanks for this review! I'm going to the London, Ontario concert on the 29th and I'm excited to hear that it should be a good show!

So pumped.

Concert was great!!! Jay Z is a great performer. He had the crowd going. N.E.R.D wasnt bad... Pharell got the crowd going towards the end. Wale and UCB were good too. But Jay was classic. Great Show

Whoever said that N.E.R.D wasn't good doesn't know good music. That band was all the way live. Would've been great to hear Reasonable Doubt and Renagade also. Great concert altogether. Love Jay-Z.

I LOVE Jay-z soooo much like everyone else i would have loved to hear some old Jay but any Jay is good to me... & NERD is the best nobody in my section(110)was rockin wit me to them people gotta let loose!

anyone able to provide a tracklist of all the songs he performed? Much appreciated thanks.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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