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Concert Reviews:
Jay Z keeps the legend alive at The Palace

21st Century Media/Digital First Media, @GraffonMu

Posted: Saturday, January 11, 2014

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AUBURN HILLS -- Jay Z makes a lot of headlines these days for being a fashion executive, a sports agent, a vegan dieter -- Beyonce's husband, for that matter.

But give him a stage, an audience and a microphone in his hands, and he very quickly reminds us where all that came from.

The Brooklyn-born rapper's hour-and-45-minute show Friday night, Jan. 10, at the Palace was exactly what we've come to expect from him since he dropped his "Reasonable Doubt" album nearly 18 years ago. Though playing Ford Field with Justin Timerlake just five months ago clearly hurt attendance at The Palace, Jay Z's 26-song set was characteristically aggressive, assured and, most of all accessible. The guy's songs have hooks and genuine choruses that are as arena-ready as any rock band's, and if anyone's worried about his other ventures compromising his skills Jay Z assuaged those concerns by breaking into nimble a capella rhymes at various points of the show.

And after good pal and Watch The Throne partner Kanye West's Yeezus spectacle less than a month ago, Jay Z also made a case for comparative minimalism with a sleek, post-industrial stage set that gave him plenty of room to swagger and a powerful but stripped-down three-piece group that was joined by producer/artist Timbaland for about half the show as well as a musical "interlude" before the encore.

Jay Z (real name Shawn Carter) was also promoting his latest album, the Timbaland-dominated "Magna Carta...Holy Grail" -- not necessarily his strongest despite a field-leading nine Grammy Award nominations. But the newer material, particularly the forceful "Holy Grail," the electro-tinged "Tom Ford" and the playful "Picasso Baby" fit nicely alongside established, iconic rap hits such as "On to the Next One," "99 Problems," "Dead Presidents II," "Big Pimpin' " and "Run This Town." He revisited Watch The Throne`s "No Church in the Wild" and "Niggas in Paris," while the encore set was a veritable greatest hits display -- "Encore," "Empire State of Mind," "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Hard Knock Life" and the traditional show-closer "Young Forever" -- that alone demonstrated the considerable impact Jay Z has had on both the rap game and pop music in general.

Early on Jay Z told the Palace crowd that "Every time I come here we have a legendary night" -- including a pair of 2010 shows with Eminem at Comerica Park. He can add Friday at the Palace to that list, too.

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