Backbeat: Jay-Z, Lyor Cohen, Julie Greenwald, Island Def Jam Execs at Barclays Center's 40/40 Club Launch
Backbeat: Jay-Z, Lyor Cohen, Julie Greenwald, Island Def Jam Execs at Barclays Center's 40/40 Club Launch

jayz Jay-Z arrives at the grand opening of the 40/40 Club inside the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn Thursday night. (Photo: Dan Rys)

Walking up to the calm, subdued exterior of the Barclays Center last night (Sept. 27), it was hard not to imagine the madhouse it will be tonight, when Jay-Z formally opens the House That Jay Built with his first of a string of eight concerts ("Eight shows for H.O.," as he put it).

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"I walked around here earlier and I just seen everybody busy and at work trying to finish up, and it was a great feeling," Jay-Z said as he stopped briefly on the red carpet before moving on and refusing more interview requests. "A guy stopped me in the hallway and said, 'Man, this is a great thing for New York City.' And that's what the whole thing was about."

yormack Jay-Z greets Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormack after arriving at the arena. (Photo: Dan Rys)

But the grand opening of the Barclays Center's 40/40 Club -- Hov's chain of nightclubs that includes spots in Las Vegas, Manhattan, and Atlantic City -- was a much more intimate kick-off event, though no less celebratory. And with attendees such as Jay, Rihanna, J. Cole, ?uestlove, Brooklyn Nets players Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Reggie Evans, Jerry Stackhouse, and Josh Childress, and the New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire, to name a few, the place wasn't lacking in star power.

Roc Nation signees J Cole and Rihanna pose together at the 40/40 Club in Brooklyn. (Photo: Johnny Nunes/WireImage)

But with Jay-Z involved, the event never is. The 40/40 club is a classy, largely open space, with an entire wall that gives way to a view of the court -- or, in last night's case, the stage and seating setup for Jay-Z's upcoming residency. Guests took advantage of an open bar that included Jay-Z's line of cognac, D'ussé (by Bacardi), which launched earlier this year, and select burgers, crab cakes, and chocolate-covered strawberries. There was some conversation about the club's sleek look and design, which borrows much from its Manhattan cousin, and the new arena in general, which casts an imposing glance down Atlantic Avenue with its impressive girth.

Jay-Z Talks Barclays Bookings & 'Nepotism,' Made In America II, NBA 2k13 at 40/40 Club

But the biggest thing on anyone's mind was the excitement building over Jay's string of shows. ?uestlove, who has performed with Jay several times in the past -- most notably at his Carnegie Hall shows earlier this year -- said he'll be working this week on Jimmy Fallon and wouldn't make it out until the final show on Oct. 6. "The first night is all about filling the house," he said. "The last night is going to be the best."

questlove ?uestlove stops at the end of the red carpet outside the 40/40 Club. (Photo: Dan Rys)

Island Def Jam president/COO Steve Bartels said he'd be making it out to the first and last nights of the run, and though Jay told Billboard at the launch of NBA 2K13 at the Manhattan 40/40 Club on Wednesday that the shows would be all about him (i.e. no guests), Bartels echoed the air of building expectation that was running through many people's minds. "Well, you never know, do you?," he said, laughing, "it's Jay-Z."

bartels Steve Bartels stopped to chat while explaining that he loved how open the club felt. (Photo: Dan Rys)

Warner Music Chairman/CEO Lyor Cohen, who stepped down on Monday (Sept. 24) effective Sept. 30, arrived with a broken right arm (though he declined to say how it happened) alongside Atlantic Records chairman/COO Julie Greenwald, who both (wisely) moved quickly through the cloud before we could ask questions, while Roc Nation's John Meneilly and other Def Jam execs such as IDJ SVP Shawn "Pecas" Costner hung in the crowd. Also a topic of discussion was Logic3's headphone line with Ferrari, which launched in July and share the big, over-the-ear design style of Beats Audio's Beats By Dre headphones -- created by Dr. Dre and Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine -- which have become so successful of late.

lyor Lyor Cohen -- who just resigned as Chairman/CEO of Warner Music Group -- poses with Atlantic Records co-chairman Julie Greenwald as they walked into the newly minted 40/40 Club. (Photo: Dan Rys)

Today's big opening of the Barclays Center brings its week-long unveiling to a close with a celebration of the borough it calls home and an eight night run from the rapper that helped bring Brooklyn its first professional sports team since 1957. As the night wound down, DJ SNS began spinning Rihanna's new single "Diamonds" and, fittingly for the occasion, Jay-Z's own "Empire State of Mind."

arena The inside of the Barclays Center, set up in preparation for Jay-Z's string of eight shows to help inaugurate the arena. (Photo: Dan Rys)

ratner Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner poses with Jay-Z. (Photo: Johnny Nunes/WireImage)