At the midpoint of his eight show run at the newly-christened Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Jay-Z has been receiving good reviews, not overwhelmingly positive, but he does have eight of these to do, remember. The Barclays Center means a lot of things to a lot of people. For Brooklyn, it means a new team in the Nets, after a 55-year absence from the once-proud sports community. For Hova, it’s a validation that hip-hop can be the positive social force that he has been championing all these years. These first few shows were critical to set the tone and, while not without controversy, they turned out ‘pretty good.’ Via Vulture:
It does not take a lot for a Jay-Z show to be good; there’s an immense catalog of tracks to run through, a favorite for every constituency, from the ubiquitous pop hits he leaned on at Carnegie Hall last winter to the mid-nineties Reasonable Doubt tracks that came out for the Brooklyn faithful. But you’d think a Jay-Z show of allegedly historical dimensions could have a crowd reeling and shouting — not politely appreciative and reminding themselves that it was significant to be there.
Though it may not have been one for the ages performance-wise, it will go down as a significant moment in the cultural history of Brooklyn. Jay-Z appeared, at times, to be overwhelmed by the experience, highlighting that Brooklyn made him who he is today and though he may boast, he isn’t so much the king of Brooklyn as one of Brooklyn’s loyal servants. His goal was to elevate his home to new heights and, in many ways, he has. Via Grantland:
He pointed toward one corner of the arena and explained that he grew up “15 minutes that way.” Later, he spoke of the “spot on State Street, which is right over there,” pointing beyond the stage. He would frequently stand there and just stare out into the arena, not in a cool, impassive way, but in the way your eyes might linger when regarding someone special or letting your thoughts drift. His mood would veer from fiery to all-at-once overwhelmed; he never seemed above the occasion, even if his triumphalism was muted. It was like watching someone have a series of moments, ones they didn’t necessarily need you there to witness. You just happened to be in the same room.
There were no big show-stopping surprises, but Jay continued to honor Brooklyn, bringing out a local hero for part of the encore. Via Rolling Stone:
Jay told Rolling Stone a few days ago that there would be no guests at his Barclays Center shows. (“This is my one chance to be selfish!” he kidded.) He kept that promise until the encore, when he surprised the arena by bringing out Bed-Stuy legend Big Daddy Kane, who ripped through 1988’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’” and 1989’s “Warm It Up, Kane,” while busting out some old-school moves (complete with a full jumping split) with his original backup dancers Scoob and Scrap. “We have to understand our history,” said Jay-Z appreciatively.
On the first night, anti-violence protesters greeted concertgoers on their way in with a funeral procession, others were there to protest the construction of the Barclays Center, claiming that community improvements and new jobs promised by Barclays didn’t materialize. On the third night, Hov addressed the criticism, which you can watch in the video below.