Jay-Z @ Barclays Center Opening Night - Concert Review - OurVinyl
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Jay-Z @ Barclays Center Opening Night – Concert Review

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On September 28th, 2012, after years of planning, the Barclays Center opened it’s doors to the public, with a blowout concert by none other than Jay-Z. With this new arena, Brooklyn not only gets a home for the “newest” NBA franchise, The (now) Brooklyn Nets, but it also gets a state of the art entertainment complex to rival it’s neighbor across the river, Madison Square Garden. Although it may take awhile to match the storied history of MSG, the first few months certainly are an indication that they’re going in the right direction. Eight sold out Jay-Z performances will take place before a pair of highly anticipated Barbra Streisand concerts. In addition to Nets home games and a slew of college basketball tournaments, the Barclays Center will also play host to Bob Dylan, the Who, Neil Young, John Legend, Swedish House Mafia, and Leonard Cohen among many others (view the complete calendar of events here).

jay-z barclays center concertThe first thing that strikes you while approaching the arena is the sweeping curves of the building’s exterior, designed by SHoP Architects. Weathered bands wrap around the core of the building which was designed by Ellerbe Becket, who are responsible for about half of the NBA arenas that are currently in use. At the busy intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, a massive oculus overhangs the triangular plaza, creating a public gathering space with visibility to the building’s interior and scoreboard. The new billion dollar facility also boasts direct access to 9 different subway lines (sadly, this does not include either the J or the Z lines) as well as the Long Island Railroad making access via public transportation as simple as can be.

Despite owning just a fraction of one percent of both the arena and franchise, Jay-Z  has left his mark on both. Born and raised in Brooklyn, it’s hard not to notice Jigga’s presence here; it’s only fitting that he be the one to christen the shiny new interior before anybody else. When tickets went on sale back in July, each of his performances sold out within the day that they were released. With Jay-Z being so invested in the Barclay Center, it was pretty clear to everyone that they would not want to miss this.

Jay Z’s Brooklyn We Go Hard

There was a tangible buzz of excitement from the moment you walked through the newly renovated (and renamed) Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station. The shiny tiles on the wall leading to the exit, are the same weathered color palette as the exterior of the new arena, which of course is the first thing that you would normally notice upon exit. There was nothing normal, however, about this night and instead your attention was first brought to the media circus surrounding Barclays Center, as well as the Occupy Wall Street movements latest attention grabbing tactics. Lines spewed out from the main entrance, slowed down by the metal detectors that everybody had to pass through. At least the staff at Barclays were much friendlier and more helpful than your typical TSA experience, making the entry an afterthought.

jay-z barclays center concertOnce inside the Barclays Center, you were immediately reminded that you were in Brooklyn. If the swarms of people in black Nets gear or “Where Brooklyn At?” tees weren’t enough, perhaps the replacement of standard arena food with local fare such as Fatty Cue, Calexico, Brooklyn Burger, and of course, Nathan’s were a stark reminder of what borough you were in. With the tickets and website saying 8:00 pm for the start of the event, most people found their way to their seats so they wouldn’t miss a moment of this historic night. Instead, for the next 90 minutes or so you were treated to Hot 97’s Mister Cee reminding you of how historic a night this was and showering you with any rap song that ever mentioned Brooklyn.

Finally around 9:30, the lights went out as the massive sloped stage turned into a giant projection screen. A montage of the history of Brooklyn was played bringing us from the founding of the city to the modern day. Along the way tribute was paid to landmarks (Brooklyn Bridge, Ebbets Field), athletes (Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan), musicians (Aaliyah, Notorious B.I.G.), and Spike Lee; all set to a mix of songs featuring Brooklyn (Roy Ayers’ “We Live In Brooklyn Baby,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Brooklyn Zoo,” and concluding with the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”). As the montage came to an end, a portal opened up from the middle as Jay-Z emerged, sporting a flat-brimmed gray and black Nets hat and debuting the new black road uniform (which could be purchased afterwards exclusively at any of the arena’s merchandise retailers). “What’s up, New York City! Tonight is a celebration of the borough I’m from” reminded Jay-Z to the crowd.

As several more panels opened up from the sloped stage, a live band was revealed, hovering around 15 feet above Hov. “Where I’m From” was the first song played at Barclays Center,which refers to the nearby Marcy Projects where Jay-Z was raised, reminding us how far the area has come since those days. “Brooklyn Go Hard” was the logical choice to follow this up with and had the crowd moving. For the next few songs, Jay-Z went silent as the singing duties were relayed to the crowd for the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy.”A montage of the late Brooklyn rapper was shown on the screen during this touching moment.

Between songs Jay-Z would try and fit in some words with the audience. This was clearly a huge night for him which he had been anticipating for years. Now that it was finally here, it seemed as if he was overwhelmed with emotion. “I Played the Grammy’s, performed at Glastonbury. I tore Coachella to pieces. But nothing feels like tonight.” said Jay-Z at least a handful of times. Verses were added dubbing himself as “H.O. eight shows” and referring to Brooklyn’s newest NBA franchise. Overall however, the performance seemed to be lacking a little something. The hits were played (in total 29 of them), but the momentum was frequently disrupted with pauses to reflect.

jay-z barclays center concertThe sloped stage and projections were pretty phenomenal (rounding out at a reported $400,000 to construct), but the platform itself seemed rather desolate, with just one man to command the crowd of 18,000 attention for the the majority of his performance. After much speculation, the lone guest of the night was Big Daddy Kane, which most people did not realize until Jay-Z introduced him after he left the stage. For a man who has collaborated with so many other notable artists, the general expectations for his performance, notably who may come out unannounced, were understandably set high; but at the end of the night many were disappointed to have not seen a more crowded stage at times.

The first set ended with a strong performance of “Encore” before Jay-Z retreated. ‘Hova’ chants swirled around the arena until Jay-Z came back out with “What More Can I Say?” After a few more songs, including “Clique” off of G.O.O.D. Music’s recent Cruel Summer, the show was over. While it certainly felt special to have been there that night, the performance left a lot to be desired; perhaps more is in store for the seven shows that will follow the opening night. It’s undeniable how big a night this was for those involved in making this happen, but it was hard not to feel at times like this was one gargantuan pep rally for Brooklyn.

Words and photos from Jesse Zryb (the night’s set-list is below video)

OurVinyl | Senior Writer

Jay-Z Setlist @ Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY 9/28/2012)

01 “Where I’m From”
02 “Brooklyn Go Hard”
03 “Kick in the Door”
04 “Juicy”
05 “U Don’t Know”
06 “99 Problems”
07 “Run This Town”
08 “Empire State of Mind”
09 “On to the Next One”
10 “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”
11 “Give It to Me”
12 “Big Pimpin’”
13 “Murda Murda”
14 “Dead Presidents”
15 “Can I Live”
16 “PSA”
17 “Jigga My Nigga”
18 “I.Z.Z.O”
19 “Jigga What”
20 “Hard Knock Life”
21 “Heart of the City”
22 “Encore”

ENCORE
23 “What More Can I Say”
24 “Do It Again”

Big Daddy Kane
“Ain’t No Half Steppin’”
“Set It Off”
“Warm It Up”

Jay-Z
25 “Clique”
26 “3 Kings”
27 “Best of Me”
28 “Money Ain’t a Thing”
29 “Money Cash Hoes”
30 “Young Forever”