Jay-Z - live review (5 stars)

SECC, Glasgow, 20th July 2008

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HIP HOP

If there were any haters still doubting after his decisive clamping of Noel Gallagher at Glastonbury a couple of weeks back, this man of a thousand monikers, J Hova, God MC, Hovito, Jigga or, as his mother knows him best, Shawn Carter remains very much the leading man of hip hop, and on the strength of this performance shows little sign of shifting from his seat at the head of an already crowded table.

A compact but feverish crowd - not quite on the scale of Glasto but even more up for it - were treated to a surge through his expansive, jewel-encrusted, back catalogue, plus a reading of several of the tracks he’s written for others including Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’, and Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love’, and his own reading of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ and a remix of Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ replete with comedy cockney-isms.

Over 75 minutes we are reminded just how many home runs he’s hit over the years, the bolshy, boisterous hooks of ‘Izzo’, ‘U Don’t Know’ and the genius throb of ’99 Problems’ all illustrating his skill at binding addictive riffage up in a web of his deft verbal posturing. Some of the set ups may have been familiar to those who saw him here in 2006 - dividing the crowd to sing during ‘Jigga Who, Jigga What’ amongst others - but the clarity and ferocity of delivery keep the whole thing box fresh.

He may personify the rap bling lifestyle - business mogul, media multi-tasker and ghetto prophet, all with the bountiful Beyoncé on his arm and a sharp suit on his back - but Jay-Z finds time between the carousing to berate Bush, big up Obama and maintain a degree of connection with his audience few rock performers would even consider.

As his set drew to a close he removed his massive 80s-style old lady sunglasses to thank the crowd, and did so personally, singling out 30 or 40 different people: his ladies down the front, the cats sporting (his clothing label) Rocawear, even the shirtless loon frantically waving the saltire all night for praise. Such reverential outpourings of gratitude might seem inappropriate or insincere for a million-selling entertainment behemoth, or maybe, just maybe, he understands that without the people in front of him he might just be a little closer to the projects in Brooklyn than he’d care to enjoy.

Try getting that kind of modesty out of Noel Gallagher.

Jay-Z

Mr Beyonce Knowles brings his superior hip-hop tour – The Magna Carter tour – to the UK.

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