Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

You Review Jay-Z


He came, he saw, he conquered. And Jay-Z didn’t need an encore to win over the Fresno crowd. It seemed like he had them the second he stepped on stage.

Jay-Z, the biggest star in rap, had the Fresno crowd on its feet pretty much all night, zooming through a setlist of hits in the almost-two-hours he was on stage. The show might not have been a complete sellout, but it was pretty full.

Who was there? What did you think? Did he prove that he’s the best rapper out there? Or have you seen better? What did you think of Hov’s set list? The crowd? What about opening acts N.E.R.D., Wale and J. Cole? Chime in on any of that, plus whatever else you want. You can also upload your own photos over here.

UPDATE: My reviews, photos and videos are all below. Check ‘em out.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Jay-Z isn’t the millions of records sold, or the big catalog of hits — it’s that he makes it all look so easy.

Such was the case Saturday night at Save Mart Center. From the second he took the stage, to the end of his almost-two-hour set, he had the crowd hooked on every word, and did it effortlessly.

Sure, there was a big stage production and an 11-piece band backing him up, but Jay-Z was up there simply in black jeans, a black T-shirt and black sunglasses. He made one costume change — donning a New York Yankees cap midway through the show.

He bantered with the crowd a bit, but not too much. He was efficient in moving through 30 songs — not a one the crowd wasn’t singing along with. He didn’t seem rushed. Or like he was trying to get the crowd hype. He was just in complete control.

If you were going to take Jay-Z to task for anything, it would be ignoring his early catalog. Most of the setlist came from his career-defining album “The Blueprint,” his most recent album “The Blueprint 3,” and his popular “Black Album.” But “Reasonable Doubt,” his classic debut album, didn’t even get love in Hov’s medley.

Also, a rapper of Jay-Z stature and talent doesn’t need a hypeman, but sidekick Memphis Bleek was on stage with Jay for the half the show, helping out. The show was better when Bleek wasn’t there. Dropping him and increasing interaction with his band would have been a better display of Jay’s rap royalty status.

That said, Saturday night’s crowd was one of the most electric and involved the Save Mart Center has seen. Maybe it was because Fresno had never seen a hip-hop show at Save Mart Center. Or maybe it was just become Jay-Z is really good at what he does.













After seeing N.E.R.D.’s live performance, it’s pretty obvious that Pharrell Williams was a punk singer in a past life. The way he runs, jumps and spazs around the stage isn’t what you’d typically expect at a hip-hop show. If you only know him as the hip-hop super producer from The Neptunes, this side of Pharrell might be suprising too.

But that’s kind of the point of N.E.R.D. As someone sitting near me said, “He’s selling punk rock to Jay-Z fans.” And he was, whether they knew it or not. N.E.R.D. is more than just Pharrell though — even if he is the star. The band was loud and energetic, playing its brand of rock-meets-funk. N.E.R.D.’s other vocalists Shay and Rhea (the female singer added recently) were good on stage, but couldn’t match Pharrell’s charisma.

The only head-scratcher was when “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (a popular Snoop Dogg song, produced by The Neptunes) and Pharrell promised a “special West Coast moment.” The logical leap was that he was going to bring out Snoop — but N.E.R.D. just played the song and nothing exciting happened.



Starting out the night were a pair of newcomer rappers — Wale and J. Cole. Savvy hip-hop fans are familiar with both as potential rising stars. More mainstream fans were probably getting their first exposure to both.

J. Cole was up first, in a brief 15-minute spot with just three songs. The crowd was still filtering in, but by the time he got to his final song, “Grown Simba,” he had many of them bobbing their heads along. Cole’s best chance to shine came later in the show when Jay-Z brought him out on stage for “A Star is Born,” a “Blueprint 3″ song that Cole guests on.


Wale’s set was much of a spectacle. The Washington D.C.-bred rapper came out with a five-piece band, which was a welcome surprise. He mostly performed songs off his debut album, “Attention Deficit,” which comes out Tuesday.

Wale had good energy on stage — most evident during his finale, “Chillin,” in which he marched out into the audience and performed from three different places in the arena, getting mobbed by fans.

Having the band with him, though, presented an issue for Wale. At times, the band was too loud and drowned out his vocals — not the best plan if you’re trying to win over people who probably don’t know your songs. However, coming out with the band was ambitious, a move that says he’s not just another rapper with a DJ and a hypeman. Band issues aside, it’s safe to say that Wale made an impression on Fresno.



Responses to "You Review Jay-Z"

Marc M. says:

Jay-Z didn’t do anything from Reasonable Doubt :( and he did a lot of songs from BP3 that I didn’t personally like (lol), but overall I think he did really good.

I wasn’t the only person that thought Snoop was going to come out when NERD dropped “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, right?

K.Pizzle says:

Word. I Wanted To Hear “Can’t Knock The Hustle” And “Dead Presidents”. Overall 3.5/5. N.e.r.d. Rock That Sh** Tho!!

Aubrey Priest says:

About the Jay Z concert- first N.E.R.D. was a noisy mess. There was nothing redeemable I got from their performance. If I was paying to see them I would have left after 5 minutes. When he played Drop it Like Its Hot I thought maybe Snoop will breath some like into this performance. But nope. Now on to Jigga. He came out and did his thing. He had the crowd rockin’ nonstop. The place looked like it was empty when Pharrell came out but looked close to full when Jay Z stepped on stage. I didn’t feel connected with much if his performance however. I felt like Fresno was a random stop for him and not one of only 2 west coast stops. I’ve been dozens of hip hop concerts and rock concerts and I’m tired of the 2 man rapper/hype man stage show and for someone like Jay Z I’d expect more. Finally I did give him a strong B overall because he had the crowd into when he did perform but he unfortunately had numerous excerpts for his hit songs he didn’t feel like performing but we felt like hearing. I’ve seen Jay Z. Best rap artist out there and I’m done with live hip hop shows for a long time.

Monica Santiago says:

I have been to ALLOT of concerts in my day and JAYZ by far has been the best! He did a little bit of everything. If he was to do every Jayz song out there we would of been there for hours!

I personally didn’t like Wale. N.E.R.D. was off the chain!

Great concert I was on my feet the whole time singing my ass off!!

Chris Rogstad says:

J. Cole’s first soung was hilarious. Wale brought some nice energy wish I had floor seats when he went around the crowd on the floor.

N.E.R.D. brought amazing energy and really knew how to bring the house to their feet. I never really thought about Snoop Dogg coming out that would have been sweet though lol.

Jay-Z was absolutly awesome. Definitly at the top of the rap game. At first I thought he actually had Alicia Keys with him but Bridget Kelly was amazing standing in for her. Jay-Z entertained from start to finish I wish I could go down to the concert at UCLA and experience it again.

Last night was the best night of my life! I’m a die-hard HOV fan so to experience him up close (4th row :D) was unbelievable. It was like finally seeing God. That’s a pretty bold statement to make, but its just my way of showing how much I respect and admire Jay’s music, business, and the man himself. I understand how some are bummed that he didn’t perform classics from Reasonable Doubt. All I can say is you should have went to the Heart of the City tour. I went to his show at the Hollywood Bowl last year where he performed what seemed like every song in his catalog. It was another “best night of my life” experience.

Sam says:

Aubrie Priest: What a Debbie Downer. What did you expect him to do???? Wear a Fresno State jersey or something? Personally rap right in front of you and not on stage? God, some people are clueless. It was a great show.

This was the best show at Save Mart Center. Enough with all of the stupid Rascal Flatts and Kelly Clarkson crap coming 15 times. ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!

Mr. Incognito says:

Fresno/Jay-Z Breakdown: (I saw Wu-Tang in NYC in ’94, Biggie and Craig Mac in NYC ’95 and the list could go on for a second but I still had yet to see a cold hip hop show in the SaveMart Center. The Fashawn, Talib Kweli, and Jean show was dope as all get up; however, the SaveMart Center is the Mecca in FresYes, the big stage!

1. J. Cole – For being the next one in line to the kingdom, Beanie the illegitimate step child, I wasn’t overly impressed with him. I mean, there weren’t too many people in the arena when he took to the mic and all but he seemed like he was bored; however, he did let dude in the front row know that his girl was a video vixen. J. Cole’s set was a bit too short for me too, I couldn’t get hyped. ( C+)

2. Wale – You can’t come to a place where too many people don’t know your music and then jump around like your a household name. The band was UBER loud which was cool but I couldn’t understand too many words coming out of Jackie Chan’s, I mean Wale’s mouth. It was cool and all that he jumped into the crowd but he’s lucky he didn’t have someone hit him over his head and steal the mic in order to finish the best song he had all night, “Hey, Hey, Goodbye” (I was like get off the stage already, bring on N.E.R.D.)! I mean, dude could have laced us with some “Ice Cream Girl” or something. ( D )

3. N.E.R.D. – Question is did they have a fill in for Hugo, a la M.F. Doom style? I couldn’t tell if he was playing that little M-Audio keyboard or if he was even there; speaking of Hugo of course. They rocked the stage with a couple cool hits of theirs but I’d have to agree with Marc M., I thought for certain Snoop Dogg was comin’ out and killin’ that track. Overall, I thought they set the stage for Jay in a nice way; nonetheless, their grade isn’t the best. ( B -)

4. Jay-Z – From the moment he popped up out of the floor, he did what a real performer is supposed to do, perform! I could go on and on about this but I was happy that Fresno showed up in full and really rocked the joint. Jay needs to retire Memphis to the back country because he didn’t really bring anything to the table. All of this is coming from a Jay is cool dude to a, “Man, I need to re-up on some of this new Jay stuff”. ( A+)

- “Cognito”

Mr. Incognito says:

Note to self: All the women on stage go to clubs that only play top 40 music! It was embarrassing to see the lack of rhythm and sexiness… I’m sure there was a pimp in row A, seat 1 and 2 just shakin’ his head at his experiments gone wrong!

On a side note: Do you have the number for the Brazilian girl in the white top who Jay pointed out and the one in the green dress too?

Roe: Lame, heard they were playing house up until 1a when Memphis supposedly showed up and then they switched to hip hop.

Twist: Lame, just because I don’t know what went down at your joint.

Aqua Shi: Lame, plus one for getting closed down and having a flier saying your spot was the place to be after the show…


Fresno PD

lattlay fottfoy says:

Where is the real info? Does Jay prefer the 9mm or the .40? Does he like the Glock or does he roll with a MAC-10?

Bobby says:

the show was great. more proof that jay is the best to ever do it. exactly what mike said, effortless. I wasn’t mad at fact he didn’t play anything from reasonable doubt. the only song that would have flowed with the energy level was maybe brooklyn’s finest. Hearing “You Don’t Know” and “PSA” was all I needed anyways. As far as his stage show… sure he didn’t jump around or act too lively but thats jay-z, anything else wouldn’t be him. the music speaks for itself. ever seen a mariah carey performance? she stays in the same spot and just moves her non-microphone hand up and down, thats it. the music does all the work.

if I had one complaint it would be the sound. it was just a little too loud and distorted. I don’t mind loud, but as long as its nice and clear.

TEA says:

YO!!! Im str8 outta Brooklyn!! and I have to agree with you Amanda that show was the best show in my life.. it was hyped from start to finish! and Jay put it down for Brooklyn and the NYC if you are not a hardcore fan you didn’t get his music! and you didn’t get BP3 then you didn’t feel the show! but in my OP.. ! Jay-Z ripped the mic and i’m still having fun off the show!!!

lattlay fottfoy says:

“He came he saw he conquered.” Sorry, but the dude is not so much Caeser as a second-rate Caeser salad with stale anchovies. But he’s from New York, so small town Fresno gets to be impressed. Snooze…..

Mike Oz says:

Actually, it was a reference to his song “Encore” … but nice try.

And liking Jay-Z is now a reason to make fun of Fresno being a small town? Geez, I’ve heard it all.

lattlay fottfoy says:

“Actually, it was a reference to his song “Encore””
I guess you made that clear in the article.

So the plagiarism was Gay-Z’s, not yours. Apologies.

Lucy says:

Jay-Z rocked that Stage with out even trying. Is just his Flow/Coolness he got in him. His just talented. I was on my feet from Beg. to END and Still wanted to see/hear More. It was one of the best concerts this area has ever had. Who would have thought out of California big J would make a show in Fresno…. A+++

misssssneptune says:

The concert was amazing!

N.E.R.D. was insaine. I’m sure some peope who just are fans of Jay would have thought the performance could have been to loud and crazy. But for a fan of good music and people who know what they do, it was AMAZING! I knew when “drop it like its hot” came on there would be no snoop. If ya’ll don’t realise, Pharrell and the neptunes produced and wrote the song. It was just a way to get the crowd pumped up and Pharrell did his thing! I was of course on stage during the she wants to move song. It was fun but I know what ya’ll meant with the no rythm thing. We couldn’t hear SH*T! It was to loud to even think let alone dance LOL.

Jay came and conquered! I was in the front row so I got up close and personal. Even if I hadn’t been tho, he brought it! He concected with us and really hit it right on! The show was amazing and the the girl sounded almost as good as Alicia and I met her back stage and was very humble! I deff enjoy new talent! Good job J!

matt says:

Drove all the way from Reno to come see Jay. I have gone to quite a few concerts. The Dead this year and Burning Man would be the big ones. Jay-z is by far the best artist I have seen. All the people complaining about him vibin with the crowd, what happened to it NOT BEING SOLD OUT. The biggest artist alive, and y’all can’t sell out the Save Mart Center? Weak. N.E.R.D. was just making some noise I felt. And they played nothing new. Wale was pretty good but no one was really there yet. His new album is really good IMO. Jay played a few songs from his new album and then went straight to the classics skipping Reasonable Doubt. I am on the floor in San Jose. That’s how good I thought Jay-z was. Can’t wait to see what he plays in San Jose. Heard Lupe was at the Staples Center after Fresno. I just wish the 2010 tour was up when I got the tickets for Fresno.