It’s around 9:15 p.m. on Nov. 2, and the lights in the Wells Fargo Center go out unexpectedly. The sold-out crowd begins to scream as the band plays the “Throne Music”, which is featured during interludes on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne.” Suddenly, Kanye steps onto the stage. As he appears on the main stage, a spotlight at the opposite end of the stadium turns on, and there is Jay-Z, standing straight across from him on a completely separate stage. If this hasn’t confused you already, something even crazier happened: The stages began to rise up above the crowd. By the end of their ascent, the hip-hop legends were towering over the audience, who were confused as to which artist to watch. Graphics of doves and barking dogs appeared on the sides of the stages as the two superstars performed “H*A*M,” the promo single from their collaborative album.
After performing “Who Gon Stop Me,” Jay-Z left the smaller secondary stage, and Kanye stepped aside on the main stage. As I watched Jay-Z walk past my section and into the locker room area that the Sixers and Flyers usually occupy, a giant American flag dropped down from the ceiling and acted as a backdrop as Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” began to play. Jay-Z then joined Kanye on stage as they performed the lead single from their album, “Otis,” and the crowd went absolutely crazy.
The duo continued to perform more songs from their album before getting into the solo performances. The two stars would trade being the center of attention from time to time before reuniting again every few songs to perform tracks from “Watch the Throne,” hits they’ve performed together over the years, or to act as a hype man for each other.
One of the most memorable moments of the night was when Jay-Z and Kanye sat down on the main stage next to each other as they performed “New Day,” a song written about their unborn sons. Kanye proclaimed it was his favorite verse of all time before reciting his lyrics. Following the song, Jay-Z went right into his classic hit, “Hard Knock Life,” featuring a sample from “Annie,” which everyone in the crowd was belting.
A little later in the night, Kanye got his moment to shine and do his typical rant during his mini solo set that began with “Runaway.” He began singing, “If you love someone tonight, hold on real tight,” repeatedly as he talked about love, among other things. At one point, he even thanked the city of Philadelphia for birthing his ex-girlfriend, Amber Rose.
All night long, the two stars went back and forth performing hit after hit after hit. It was like a greatest-hits concert, but both rappers are still making incredible music and will continue to do so for years to come. My 65-year-old father, who was also in attendance, said two days after the concert, “I still have no idea how to describe what I saw. It was like watching Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays throw a baseball around.”
Toward the end of the show, Kanye and Jay-Z began playing off of each other’s hits. For example, after Kanye performed “Gold Digger,” Jay-Z said to Kanye, “Usually I’ve got great advice for you, but,” as “99 Problems” began playing.
The show closed with not one, not two, but three performances of their No. 1 single, “N****s in Paris.” The first two came before the encore, followed by a third performance to open the encore. To close the show, Jay-Z performed the perfectly fitting “Encore” from “The Black Album.”
To say this is the most anticipated hip-hop tour of the year would be an understatement. Before the release of “Watch the Throne” in August, Jay-Z and Kanye had already sold out stadiums across the country. From the moment the duo opened the concert, they were an unstoppable force for almost two and a half hours. They performed 40 songs and beautifully transitioned between hits and even stages throughout the night.
Every aspect of the show was thought through thoroughly. Most artists only focus on the music; Jay-Z and Kanye went all out with the “Watch the Throne” tour. They performed unique arrangements of songs and had 21 lasers flashing, two stages that rose above the crowd and amazing visuals all night. For one night, the superstars created a new world for their fans to embrace.