Watch the Throne in Vancouver (Live) [Photos/Review]
Vancouver, B.C. – Call them what you will, but Jay-Z and Kanye have taken it further than anyone else. There are those who would argue that the two are the very antithesis of hip-hop’s true spirit, that they embody corporate greed and capitalism as opposed to communal struggle and story-telling, but a sold-out crowd at Roger’s Arena didn’t really seem to care. Watch The Throne gave the audience everything they could have hoped for: stunning visual effects, hit after hit from two long catalogues, and dramatic entrances galore.
One would expect nothing less from the self-throned emperors of rap – sheer opulence was the name of the game as Jigga and Ye rose up on lit platforms to open the night with aggressively confident collab hits like ”Who Gon Stop Me.” The melodic “Otis” followed, a little awkwardly against a backdrop of an American flag that matched the bandana protruding from Jigga’s back pocket – some in the crowd actually booed at that symbol. But they were soon distracted by pyrotechnics that both warmed and dazzled as the boys moved into “Welcome to the Jungle,” another Throne hit that was made all the more intense by the vivid imagery of predatory animals on the screens. Lions and tigers and Ye, oh my! In some ways, the intensity of the natural imagery actually diminished the performance itself, Jay and Ye looking small next to the sharp teeth of a lion…perhaps even the most voracious of men still never compare to that which is truly wild.
“Gotta Have It” began a series of track groupings which divided the two performers into their own catalogues, and Kanye took first shift. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “All Falls Down” reminded us all of why we fell in love with Kanye to begin with…and made up for the fact that he was rocking a leather kilt for the majority of the show. Yikes. “Jesus Walks” made an appearance, although some of the more emotive elements of the track are less convincing than they were seven years ago – it almost seems like a joke now to hear Kanye spitting lyrics of humility and compassion.
We allowed Jay-Z to re-introduce himself as the crowd put their “diamonds in the air,” then the duo pulled out some previous collabs like “Run This Town” and “Monster” from their solo albums. “Made in America” was followed by the RZA-produced “It’s a New Day,” which softened things up with a sentimental message to sons unborn. Jigga took the next solo shift with some old faves like “Hard Knock Life” and the more recent “Empire State of Mind,” then Kanye was once again lifted on the platform for a breakdown of “Runaway” which actually turned out to be quite lovely, a little more off the cuff than some of the other songs.
And so it followed; hit after hit that made the people scream -and brush their shoulders off - as proof positive that these two are not just the biggest in the game, they’re kinda the best. The Frank Ocean collab “No Church in the Wild” was the climax of the night, with projected images of children in the KKK, church baptisms and Atom bombs reinforcing the ongoing dichotomy of the night: no matter how big you are in the game, you still look insignificant in the greater context of history. So even though the closing “N***as in Paris” might be the catchiest song you’ve ever heard, it’s still just a song.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photography by Jamie Sands for HipHopCanada