In a sort of one-off relaunch of their “Watch The Throne” tour, rap titans Jay Z and Kanye teamed up again last night for a celebratory — if not revelatory — show at the Austin Music Hall during SXSW, filling the small-for-them 4,600-seater to the point of nearly popping.
Unsurprisingly for the veteran duo, they proceeded to basically make it pop, over the course of a two-hour-plus take-no-prisoners show that astonishingly didn’t once mention sponsors Samsung, who ostensibly footed the bill to promote their new music service, Milk.
Instead, Jigga and Yeezus blasted through the night almost without stop, emerging atop two towering mini-stages (as they did on their “Watch The Throne” tour), playing both together and in separate standalone sets (as they did on their “Watch the Throne” tour), all the while backed by a crack three piece band (as they did on their “Watch The Throne” tour – do you sense a pattern?)
In fact, the only key difference here is that since that collaborative effort each has released a blockbuster album, meaning Kanye performed cuts from his Pazz-&-Jop-topping effort “Yeezus” (“Black Skinhead;” “New Slaves”) while Jay Z attacked key cuts from “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” including “Tom Ford” and “Beach Is Better.”)
What’s always set each of these men apart from their hip-hop peers is their unflailing confidence and a demeanor both inviting and better-than, and that was no different on this night; from the beginning, Jay Z swaggered and West simmered, looking at each other over across the audience-gulf that separated them (about that gulf: in some ways, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, as everyone got face time with the duo in some way or another: the two tower stages were eye level with the balcony, and the main stage up close against the audience. But it also meant no seat has a perfect view, either: according to setlist.fm, Beyonce sang “Drunk In Love (Remix)” with Jay Z, but from our vantage point it just looked like a solo effort with Beyonce’s vocal on tracks.)
There’ve been rumors about a sequel to the wholly collaborative “Watch The Throne” album, and judging from the clear camaraderie between the twosome, it seems like the bromance is full-force enough that it could happen, egos be damned. In fact, those egos seemed to be at least slightly restrained on this night: both West and Jay Z were mostly in shadows, lighting wise, bathed in lazers and ambient light but no spotlights, even during the home stretch, wherein the duo tore into hit after hit.
And about those: during each of their solo outings, thanks to increased production, each hit can seem more poignant than they did on this night, but that’s no matter when you’re machine-gunning a barrage of chart toppers. That’s exactly what they did: the latter half of the show was essentially ubiquitous smash after ubiquitous smash: “Good Life;” “IZZO (H.O.V.A.),” “Empire State of Mind…”
The pair’s obviously having fun on stage together again, so hopes for a future follow-up bodes high, although they’ve done away with one of that show’s more unusual traditions: on that tour, they’d close with “N***as In Paris” and play it again and again and again until the audience was sick of it.
Tonight, it seemed as if people were never going to get sick of it: the contest winners, VIPS, industry, and others in attendance kept cheering, but tonight, the twosome only played it three times: hopefully there will be a chance for more sometime soon.