Tonight after much internal debate, I decided to at least go down to the Vanderbilt Memorial Gym and see if I could get a ticket to Jay-Z. This crowd was a little tougher than most shows I go to but I finally found the right person who didn't care what the face value was and sold it to me cheap. I made my way down to the floor right as the auditorium went dark and the stage screens started the countdown. When Jay came out, I thought the roof was going to lift off of the place. This crowd was fired up to say the least. I can only imagine what it would have been like if the show wasn't on campus and they sold beer.
I knew that there would be a live band, but I didn't expect one of this magnitude. The 10-piece ensemble really rocked. It included a dj, two keyboardists, a 3-piece horn section, bass, guitar, drums, and what I would call an auxiliary drummer. He had some congas and other percussion instruments but spent most of his time playing the electronic drum pads adding sounds that the live drums just couldn't make. There were more than a few moments when the live players, mostly guitar and bass, stood around not doing anything while the tracks played, but when they did play they rocked. Now, in the past month, I've seen such bands as KISS, Lenny Kravitz, Mars Volta, and Them Crooked Vultures, but this was by far the loudest show of them all. It's no wonder they repeatedly shouted "Huh?" and "What?". On one hand, it was awesome to feel the bass hitting me like a Mack truck, but the hurricane of sound made it a little difficult to understand what Jay was saying. I guess this didn't really affect the rest of the hardcore fans as it seemed like everyone in the arena sang every word of every song all night.
I've never really been a big hip-hop fan but I do know that Jay-Z is about as good as it gets. He truly was a great showman, whipping the near capacity crowd into an arm waving, bouncing frenzy. With every opening note, the fans went nuts like each song was a number one hit. He cruised the stage and radiated cool all night proving why, as he said, his record "outsold Elvis". I don't know many of his songs but I did recognize "99 Problems", "Death to Auto-Tune", and the one with the "Hard Knock Life" sample. Even without being familiar, the show was great. It was a lot like a rock show in sheer volume and energy with a star who really knows how to perform. He kept mentioning the fact that this was their last stop until February and they played like they were leaving it all in Nashville, even proclaiming that "this was the best show of the tour." He swore he wasn't blowing smoke, and I could see how this show would be hard to top without adding a Bonnaroo sized crowd or an all-star line up.
As I was sitting outside after the show, I heard a lot of fans talking about this being the best show they've ever been to and how awesome it was to see their hero. It's safe to say that Jay-Z converted a new fan tonight. I like how he wasn't into hyping himself all night. His huge charisma and wide range of songs spoke for themselves and will make it easy for me to get into him, and maybe even learn a little more about hip-hop.