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Concert Reviews:
Jay-Z and Kanye West take the throne as rap kings at the Palace

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, November 27, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- "Yo, Hova," Kanye West called to Watch The Throne partner Jay-Z early during their Watch The Throne concert Saturday night (Nov. 26) at the Palace. "What up, Ye?" "I think we got what they need..."

It may have been a scripted intro for their song "Gotta Have It," but it was also an apt assessment of what was to transpire over the dynamic duo of rap's two-and-a-half hour show.

Dynamically staged, carefully paced and performed with fierce bravado by two MCs seeking to complement rather than compete with each other, the production set a new high mark for hip-hop showmanship. Fiery pyrotechnics, enough lasers to blow up a fleet of "Star Wars" aircraft, extensive video and two stages each sporting large, lighted cube-shaped platforms that rose from the floor offered plenty of eye candy, but the real thrills for the crowd of 15,000 -- which included Detroit music stars Anita Baker, Mike Posner and Big Sean -- came from Jay-Z and West, each in top form and playing both star and teammates as they worked through most of their "Watch The Throne" album and a generous assortment of solo hits.

The show's attention-capturing start found West on the main stage and Jay-Z out near the back of the Palace floor, trading verbal licks on "H*A*M" and "Who Gon Stop Me" before the latter made his way to the front of the house for "Otis," "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Gotta Have It." The solo sets were equally strong, particularly West's trio of "Runaway," "Heartless" and "Power" on the B stage and Jay-Z's muscular renderings of "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "H to the Izzo," "Empire State of Mind," "On to the Next ONe" and "Big Pimpin'."

The two also had good fun spitting on each other's material, too, with West recreating his part on Jay-Z's "Run This Town" and Jay-Z stepping up on West's "Diamonds Are Forever," "Monster" and "Gold Digger." The "Watch the Throne" material was uniformly solid, with standout renditions of "Made in America" and "No Church in the Wild," though the show's only miscue was the seven performances of "Niggas in Paris," which took up the final half-hour of the night and was enjoyable playful the first three times and then just brought a sizzling show to a thudding conclusion.

Fortunately, however, the sizzle was more memorable than the thud, and hot enough to be what we'll remember most from a collaboration we can only hope will happen again -- sooner rather than later.

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