I knew it would be good. And, at not quite $50 for a ticket (including that nasty booking fee) to see the current king of East Coast Hip Hop and one of the world’s biggest bands on such an amazing stage setting, I was even prepared to be there just for the sake of it. But this was REAL good. From Mr Z’s “swagga” and uncompromising lyrical flow to the strutting-peacock style of the ever-impressive Bono (and – at one point – the combination of both on stage at once) this gig had it all.
As a part-time Hip Hop fan, I was looking forward to Jay-Z as much as I was U2. He raised his Ray Ban-wearing head once the countdown (projected on the massive 360 degree digital screen) ran out and proceeded with an hour of veritable lyrical power. Much to my surprise a decent number of middle-aged-looking females knew at least 80% of all the words to Jay-Z’s set… or at least did a pretty convincing lip-sync. Much to my non-surprise an equally decent amount of older concert-goers sat there looking decidedly agitated because they had to sit through awesome hits “Izzo”, “Bonnie & Clyde”, “99 Problems” and “Dirt off your Shoulder”. However, there was some minor relief from some of those ignorant frowns when “Empire State of Mind” capped things off – it seems even some of those die-hard U2 fans knew this tune. Complete with live band Jay-Z was fantastic value and he even got a laugh when he suggested the next “new” band “will make it big someday”. Class.
Bono and co. strutted on stage to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” before cutting it short and launching into “Beautiful Day”. It seemed Bono’s voice needed a little warming up at first but he made up for any slight lack of pitch-perfectness with his mere presence, vocal power and stage-prancing. Next up was their old drum-thumping anthem “I Will Follow” (my fav of the night) and then a huge list of timeless hits. After 2-3 songs, I had anticipated Bono would stop for a mandatory preach… but the songs just steam-rolled on. There was also an obligatory pause for the Pike River mining disaster mid-set and a surreal, moving moment as the names of the unfortunate scrolled up on the big screens and near-silence fell over the crowd. Followed by Bono announcing that there are many ways to grieve but, in Ireland, when someone passes away “we sing”. I reckon it’s great way to remember those we loved and lost.
Two encores later (around about 11:30pm), ears ringing, legs tiring and voice a little raspy than before, I was more than stoked with the night. I’ve never been a die-hard U2 fan but their live show is well worth checking out.