By Mark Stone
Last night at Prospera Place, Jay-Z proved that the love for rap is alive and well in Kelowna. Playing to a sold out Prospera Place, the rapper/music mogul from New York City showed Kelowna a great time, and not a single person in attendance went home dissatisfied (none that I could find anyway).
It would be unfair to call Jay-Z’s concert a rap show, especially given the eleven-piece band that plays behind him. Comprised of two drummers, two guitarists, a three-piece horn section, three keyboardists and one DJ, the band never missed a note or a beat as Jay-Z played practically every single hit song you can think of. HOVA played for just under an hour before taking his first unofficial encore, but his entire set lasted about an hour and a half.
Before I continue I can’t forget to mention the second opening act, N.E.R.D. Led by fellow music mogul Pharrell Williams, N.E.R.D. worked the crowd unlike any opening band I have ever seen – and I’ve seen more concerts than I care to count. Williams is as confident and comfortable on stage as Jay-Z, and his infectious charisma brought the crowd to their feet much earlier than one would expect. Williams even brought several women up on stage to join him and the band for their last few songs, and the sold out crowd responded with enthusiasm, especially for the monster single Drop It Like It’s Hot.
The first opening act, Wale (pronounced wah-lay) performed well and got the crowd to a good start, but a poor sound mix prevented his short set from being fully appreciated.
Back to Jay-Z… You know how for every concert you go to you get a certain vibe from the crowd? Last night’s concert probably had the biggest party vibe I’ve witnessed from a show – rap or otherwise. From his opening Run This Town to his final song Forever Young, the crowd stayed on its feet and didn’t sit still for a second. Normally concerts have several songs where you always see people rush for the exits and take a bathroom break; this show had none of those moments. Kelowna was feelin’ Jay-Z tonight and everyone was there to have a good time (some probably had a little too much of a good time as there seemed to be a lot of females in attendance by the name of Mary Jane).
To add to the great musical vibe, the backdrop of Jay’s stage is a visually stunning group of video screens that changed for every song, at times interweaving live footage of Jay and his band with various images, most notably the 360 degree view of the New York City skyline that we were treated to for his current single, Empire State of Mind. People I spoke to that were sitting near the front of the stage on the floor told me after the show how they had trouble keeping their eyes off the video screens, despite having Jay only several feet away.
The concert wasn’t perfect however, as the sound mix wasn’t exactly up to par. At times, the bass emanating from his band muddled Jay’s raps. Another nitpicky item: for a rap concert, the DJ and his turntables were completely lost in the mix. I was only able to distinctly hear the turntables on one song, Dirt Off Your Shoulder. My only other complaint would be how short many of his songs were. I know he was doing it to ensure that all the hits were covered, but it was slightly disappointing when big hits like 99 Problems, Hard Knock Life and Can I Get A. But if that was the only way that we get to hear all the songs we love, then it’s a small price to pay.
The Afterparty Fiasco
At the end of the show, Memphis Bleek – who joined Jay on stage for at least half of the concert – announced that the official afterparty was going to be at Flashbacks, not at Level as many were anticipating. Kelowna.com announced this last week. Those in attendance at Flashbacks witnessed an absolutely stunning performance by DJ Mell Starr and his MC, Kay M. Hailing from New Jersey, Starr and Kay M worked the small crowd into a frenzy, luring an extremely high percentage of people onto the dance floor. To see these guys work was something to behold; for a hip-hop purist like myself who loves to see a DJ and MC work their magic, Mell Starr and Kay M provided that magic that was missing from the Jay-Z concert.
I spoke to several people who had attended both afterparties, and they all told me that although Level had many more in attendance, the music was much better at Flashbacks. Because of the small crowd, Memphis Bleek did not perform (although he was in attendance for the majority of the evening) and Jay-Z did not make an appearance.
So where was Jay-Z? I’m told that the man who is happily married to Beyonce went back to his large suite at the Delta Grand, showered, took a quick nap, and apparently flew out of Kelowna on his own private jet to Vancouver about 1 am. Which is a shame, because I think if the afterparty scenario wasn’t so unclear for everyone, he may have stuck around.
Either way, everyone who saw his show went home happy knowing they had just witnessed a show they will never forget.
(Editor’s note: Portions of this piece have been removed since it first published)Jay-Z: The Kelowna experience and how it all went down