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.
J COLE & WALE
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.