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Jay-Z: The Kelowna experience and how it all went down

Friday, October 16th, 2009 | 6:00 am

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Jay-Z performed Thursday night at Prospera Place. (Photo Noreen Laurent)

Jay-Z performed Thursday night at Prospera Place. (Photo Noreen M. Laurent)

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 down5.051

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9 Responses to “Jay-Z: The Kelowna experience and how it all went down”

  1. 99 problems says:
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    I don’t think the reason that everyone attended Level was there based on the fact they didn’t let up on their advertising. Flashbacks may have the advantage of proximity to arenas for big shows such as this, but Level has clearly put in the most effort in the last better part of the decade in making their club the highlight of the Kelowna night experience. With renovations and quality improvements since their inception of new branding and ownership they have been nothing but successful in their endeavors. They have brought in quality world ranking acts that people have asked for such as Benny Benassi, MSTRKRFT, Bassnectar, and also gone the distance in installing a permanent Bartenders Guild Flair bar, normally only found in Vegas. I’d say if Memphis Bleek couldn’t even bring people into Flashbacks it just shows what Level has done for Kelowna, while others just seem to open their doors and hope everyone comes in. In the end Memphis didn’t even perform as was scheduled due to “crowd size” shouldn’t the show go on anyways for the paying public as advertised? People weren’t “duped” into going to Level, they were headed there regardless to have a good time as proven many times over.
    On a side note, how many times has anyone been to an after party where a big name headliner is “maybe” stopping by and actually been interactive and in view of the crowd without climbing on his tour bus or private flight to head off to their next destination within a few hours of their performance concluding…

  2. Catherine Newton says:
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    Amazing, amazing show ! I’ve never seen that much energy and vibe at a concert before and Jay-Z definitely knew how to work it. I am astounded that he played such a small venue, but I love Prospera Place for it’s intimacy and acoustics, and wonder if that’s the reason he showed up to wow us in Kelowna ? First rate show, first rate night all around, folks !

  3. Mark Stone says:
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    Hey 99 Problems (I feel bad for you, son),

    You make a good point. Somehow, Memphis Bleek and the promoters created confusion with the two venues and concertgoers ended up paying the price. Perhaps my use of “duped” was unfair; I don’t mean to put down Level in any way. I was told over a week before the show that the afterparty would be at Flashbacks and Level was aware of this as well. From all parties concerned, it could have been handled better.

    As long as everyone had a good time at the concert and at both afterparties, I guess that’s all that matters in the long run.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. John says:
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    Do you work for Level? People went to Level because that is the place people go on Thursday nights, if the concert were on a Saturday then Flashbacks would have been packed….

  5. Bree says:
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    People went to level because, as you mentioned, there was confusion about where the official after party was – plain and simple. Both venues were touting to be ‘official’ and without the back – story it was hard to know who was telling the truth. Plans were made ahead of time and you had a 50-50 chance of being at the right one. A small hiccup in an otherwise outstanding evening. I was at Level and was not disappointed.
    Audio mix – totally agree with you. Also found some issues with the vocals during Empire State of Mind as well. But that is only IF I had to nit-pick

  6. JJ says:
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    Why didnt Jay Z show up? Why would anyone waste time going to a club in Kelowna when he is going to VANCOUVER tomorrow. We should be happy JayZ took over Kelowna like he did. Bring more shows to Kelowna please!

  7. Bed-Sty says:
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    I walked up to Bleek. Asked if he was going to perform, he said the crowd was dead. I made the excuse that this was Kelowna? When you’ve been in the shadow of a giant coming from a sold out show to Flashbacks? Totally understanding. The night was amazing and just glad the ROC was in the Building!

  8. Nick says:
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    My buddies and I thought Jay-Z rocked the house. Amazing show and all the other acts were excellent too. We were bouncing all night long.

    We did go to Flashbacks and were lucky enough to see the DJ and MC throw it down. What a night that we won’t soon forget.

  9. Danni girl says:
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    the show was amazing it was only my second concert but holy the hard word carisma and love that hes put into his lifestyle is actually inspiring

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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