Watch The Throne Lives Up To the Hype In NJ

Watch The Throne
Jay-Z & Kanye West
Izod Center, East Rutherford, NJ
November 6, 2011

Wow.  I attended the Watch The Throne Tour stop in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday Night expecting to see a great concert.  Instead, what I witnessed was a magical moment where two performers took their music to heights where no Hip-Hop artist had every taken it.  The show literally made me say “wow” out loud multiple times. 

The show did not begin until approximately 9:15 p.m. and there was no opening act.  As the crowd sat in their seats with the lights on you saw a stage with raised platforms in an almost maze-like manner, with two other platforms shaped like squares, and at least six men on a hanging trapeze fixture with gigantic lights and cameras.  Yet, no one knew exactly what was going to come next.  As the lights went dim, the “Throne” instrumental music that is heard between each of the tracks on the actual Watch The Throne album could be heard.  And you could see Kanye West walk to the squared platform on the right and Jay-Z to the one on the left.  Surpringsly, the first song of the night was “H.A.M”, a bonus track on the new album.  No one seemed to mind as all of a sudden, the two squared platforms started to rise and within a minute the two superstars were on cubes thirty feet in the air trading verses filled with bravado and swagger.  

The astounding 40 song setlist was perfectly planned.  It was a constant and entertaining trade off between Jay-Z and Kanye.  They performed songs together and then separately, each with an even amount of stage time.  Jay-Z clearly got more love from the crowd, most likely because the show was so close to where he grew up.  That’s not to say Kanye did not get love because the crowd was cheering and dancing right along with him as well. 

The two stars traded verses on the raised cubes to “H.A.M.”, “Who Gon Stop Me”, and “Welcome To the Jungle”.  At one point the cubes pictured both pitbulls barking and then transformed into giant fish tanks with great white sharks swimming in them.  It was truly amazing to witness these effects.  Once they finished these three songs, the cubes came back down to their starting level and the lights went dark.  For the next three minutes, “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding played over the speakers and a huge American Flag was spread along the main stage.  The two came out and ripped into “Otis” and the crowd went wild.

What I really loved about the show was the interaction between the two.  They genuinely looked like they were having a great time.  They were smiling and even traded lyrics on each other’s singles.  For instance, Kanye sang the lyrics as the police officer in the second verse of “99 Problems” and Jay-Z helped Kanye out on “Gold Digger”. 

In fact, after Jay-Z did “Big Pimpin”, Kanye stated to the crowd “Jay-Z was my hero growing up and I always wanted to be like him. But every time I would try to live Big Pimpin, I couldn’t because ….” and the speakers broke right into the Jamie Foxx chorus of “Gold Digger”: “she take my money”. The two shared what looked like a lot of good laughs to their obviously rehearsed song set ups. 

Jay-Z was the most interactive with the crowd that I have ever seen him.  He strolled around the stage in his typical coolness and got the crowd to put their hands in the air and make the “Roc Diamond” in the sky multiple times throughout.  Kanye had a lot less interaction, but really showed a lot of emotion during his songs dancing like a maniac and giving it his all. 

All throughout the show, large amounts of pyrotechnics were used and the dual stages were utilized.  Kanye used the large platform on the left of the arena for a three song set highlighted by the effectious “Stronger”.  Most people seemed to take a bathroom break during the autotuned “Heartless”.  I could have done without that fairly lackluster tune. 

I really enjoyed their rendition of “Diamonds From Sierra Leon” and “Monster”, two songs from Kanye’s past solo albums.  The two have a natural showmanship and do things so differently, yet the combination at the same time is an amazing transformation.  Kanye is self absorbed rapper, dressed in a leather kilt; Jay-Z is the crowd pleaser dressed simply in his trademark Yankee hat, black shirt and jeans.  They are so different, but somehow when they blend their styles, sure genuis is the result. 

Another great moment was when the two slowed things down and sat next to each other on the stage.  They rapped to “New Day” and “Hard Knock Life” while sitting down as if they were just old friends sharing a moment.  It came across as genuine and really showcased the real love they have for each other.

Three of the last four songs played was their latest #1 on the Billboard Charts, “****** In Paris”.  When the clip of Will Ferrel from his movie “Blades of Glory” came on, the energy in the building amplified to a ridiculous level.  The two blasted into the song and the crowd responded by jumping up and down.  The entire building was shaking, it was truly a sight to behold.  They finished the song once and Jay-Z stated “**** it, let’s do again” and they went right back to it. 

The two left the stage for a brief minute and came back out for an encore.  They went right back to “Paris” and no one in the building seemed to mind.  They finished their masterpiece with Jay-Z’s “Encore” and the crowd was heard chanting “Hova, Hova Hova …” on repeat in honor of the superstar.  They finished up with Jay-Z thanking the crowd and walked off together into the dark. 

While most of the concert was absolutely brilliant, there were a few minor things that were a bit strange.  First, was Kanye’s choice of clothing.  At first he was wearing a t-shirt with his face on it, a leather kilt, leather tights, and basketball sneakers.  He then changed halfway through into an atrocious sweater, yet decided to keep the kilt on.  Also, there were images on the two giant HD screens that were confusing.  At one point there was a police chase where police cars were getting blown up and crashed into.  Then duing “No Church In the Wild”, there were images of the Klu Klux Klan – quite disturbing. 

But all in all, out of the 200 plus concerts that I have attending in my lifetime, this one ranks up there in the top few.  The stage design, the pyrotechnics, the setlist, and special effects all lived up to the hype that “Watch The Throne” has been receiving.  I cannot wait until I see their show at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night.  All I can say is wow. 

 SETLIST:

  1. H.A.M. 
  2. Who Gon Stop Me
  3. Otis
  4. Welcome To the Jungle
  5. Gotta Have It
  6. Where I’m From
  7. Jigga What, Jigga Who
  8. Can’t Tell Me Nothing
  9. Flashing Lights
  10. Jesus Walks
  11. Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix
  12. Public Service Announcement
  13. U Don’t Know
  14. Run This Town
  15. Monster
  16. Power
  17. New Day
  18. Hard Knock Life
  19. H to the Izzo
  20. Empire State of Mind
  21. Runaway
  22. Heartless
  23. Stronger
  24. On To the Next One
  25. Dirt Off My Shoulder
  26. I Just Wanna Love You
  27. That’s My B****
  28. Good Life
  29. Touch The Sky
  30. All Of The Lights
  31. Big Pimpin’
  32. Gold Digger
  33. 99 Problems
  34. What A Wonderful World
  35. No Church in the Wild
  36. Lift Off
  37. ****** In Paris
  38. ****** In Paris
  39. ****** In Paris
  40. Encore

VIDEOS:

H.A.M.

Who Gon Stop Me

****** In Paris
Stronger
U Don’t Know
On To The Next One
Jigga What, Jigga Who
Diamonds Remix
99 Problems
H To the Izzo
Empire State of Mind
Outro

The Miami Boys Warm Up New Jersey (Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias at the Pru)

Enrique Iglesias & Pitbull
Euphoria Tour
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
September 24, 2011

On September 24, 2011, I made my way into Newark New Jersey’s Prudential Center Arena for the Euphoria Tour starring Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull.  This pairing was an obvious choice since both artists are internationally known, both from the Miami, Florida area, and have collaborated on multiple songs.  Upon walking into the Arena we were told the show would not be starting on time as there were complications with the stage.  In fact, the show started approximately two hours late, which was quite annoying.  Luckily, the Pru Center has ample lounges serving both food and drink, which helped ease the time. 

Up first was an artist named Prince Royce who is a “bachata” musician.  His music did not appeal to me whatsoever, but most of the crowd was happy to finally get some entertainment after the long wait.  He sang his biggest hits, such as “Stand By Me” and “Corazon Sin Cara” but for the most part, his performance was not memorable.  However, once he finished the energy in the Arena hit all time high as we all waited for Pitbull to hit the stage.  Pitbull is an artist who combines Hip-Hop with Pop with Latin music.  He has really increased his worth in the past few years thanks to his collaborations with Enrique, J-Lo, Neo, Marc Anthony, T-Pain, Akon and Lil Jon, just to name a few. 

Pitbull took the stage with all of the swagger and bravado of a hit-making headliner.  And on this night, he out-shined his headlining counterpart.  He broke into a 19 song set that was fast moving and full of energy.  His club anthems had the entire Jersey crowd fist pumping like Pauly D and feeling like they were in Miami instead of the gloomy and cold Newark. 

Dressed to the T, as he always is, with a black blazer, black button down, black pants, black shoes, and black sunglasses, he had a very likeable presence about him.  At no point was he preachy, dirty, violent, or self centered as many Hip-Hop artists have become.  Instead, Pitbull was simply there to help everyone have a good time.  And a good time they had – I did not see anyone in the sold out crowd sit down during his thunderous set.  Especially during “Hey Baby”, “Shut It Down”, his version of “Suavemente” and “I Know You Want Me”.  He even threw in some of his guest spots like the mega-hit “On The Floor” with J-Lo (who was not present). 

He ended his impressive set by bringing out Nayer, a Cuban singer and model, to sing “Give Me Everything” (without Neo).  The two had the crowd singing along and waving their hands back and forth.  The song was arguably the top Pop song of the Summer (2011) and everyone knew it word for word.  Pitbull’s set was better than expected and I expect to see him headlining Arenas in no time. 

Next up was the international superstar, Enrique Iglesias.  My wife and I had seen him at Madison Square Garden just six months before this show and we really enjoyed his set.  I was actually quite disappointed in him on this night.  I am not sure if it was because of a City time restriction and because of the show starting so late, but he only sang nine songs, and he sang one of his songs twice.  This was not the same show I had seen at the Garden just a few months before. 

That being said, when he was singing and performing he was quite entertaining.  But on this night, he was more interested in talking to the crowd and not singing.  He even took a solid fifteen minutes to sit on stage with a male fan from the crowd and drink rum and make jokes.  He did something similar in MSG, but it was only a few minutes.  This time that portion of the show was way too long and downright annoying.

Enrique did switch songs up between his American hits and Latin songs, as he is known to do.  And he concentrated on a lot of material from his newest cd, “Euphoria”.  When he was singing, he was energetic and happy.  The women in the crowd probably did not care whether he was singning or talking as they seemed to melt and scream at just the site of the man.  He really is a pop sensation in every sense of the word. 

His stage and performance included a few showers of confetti and lazers that created, at times, an impressive light show.  He interacted with a few members of the crowd and even brought a woman fan on stage to sing and hug and kiss her, as he is known to do.  It is a bit creepy, but its Enrique, so I guess he gets away with it. 

The real highlight of the night was when Pitbull came out to sing their huge hit together, “I Like It”.  Standing at the front of the long catwalk, the two artists performed the song to perfection, accented by Pitbull’s patented rapid-fire rapping. 

I was a bit disapointed that they did not sing their other collaborative songs (“Come And Go” and “I Like How It Feels”) and do not know why they did not sing them, but at least we got one song that night where they sang together.   In my opinion, if I am on a tour with another artist that I have collaborated with on a few songs, I would do all of those songs together.  Fans like special guests and songs where multiple artists are on stage together for joint hits. 

All in the all, the show left me with mixed feelings.  I had a lot of expectation and while Pitbull lived up to the hype, Enrique left a lot to be desired.  I would see both artists again: Pitbull because he was fantastic – and Enrique, to see if this night was just a fluke. 

Either way, the crowd was very into the show.  I even saw a male fan rip off his shirt in pure excitement and enjoyment during “I Like It” and throw it over the railing from the top tier to the floor tier.  That is a story one cannot make up. 

SETLISTS:

Pitbull:

1) Mr. Worldwide
2) Hey Baby (Drop It To the Floor)
3) Snipet of Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
4) Miami B*tch
5) Shut It Down
6) Shake Señora
7) Bon Bon
8) Rain over me
9) Manos para Arriba
10) Siavamente
11) Shake
12) Culo
13) I know You Want Me
14) Pause
15) On The Floor
16) DJ Falling In Love
17) Hotel
19) Give Me Everything (with special guest Nayer)

Enrique Iglesias:
1) Loving You Tonight
2) Dirty Dancer
3) No Me Digas Que No
4) Bailamos
5) Lloro Por Ti
6) Cuando Me Enamoro
7) Only Wanna Be With You
8) Hero
9) I Like It (with Pitbull)
10) Loving You Tonight (Dirty Version)

Videos:

Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias: “I Like It”

 Pitbull: “Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)”

Pitbull: “On The Floor”

Enrique Iglesias: “Loving You Tonight”

Kenny Chesney and The Zac Brown Band Prove to be Giants at the Meadowlands

Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour
New Meadowlands Stadium
August 13, 2011
with Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, & Uncle Kracker

On August 13, 2011, Kenny Chesney brought his Goin’ Coastal Tour to New Jersey.  This show was special for a great number of reasons.  First off, Kenny is one of the few artists of ANY genre of music that can fill Stadiums up across the country and this was no exception.  That steamy Saturday in East Rutherford, New Jersey a record breaking crowd was on hand to see the country crooner and his large list of guests.  This particular show sold just over 55,000 tickets.  Not since country legends Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard came around in 1983 had a country concert in New Jersey sold over 50,000 tickets.  This show passed that show’s number in attendance.  Sure Kenny is one of the best in the business today, but having the Grammy Award Winning and multi-talented Zac Brown Band on the bill with him sure helped with sales quite a bit.  Throw in Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker as openers and this made the Goin’ Coastal Tour the must see tour of the summer. 

Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington opened up their shorter sets with lots of familiar music.  Uncle Kracker did his biggest hits such as “Follow Me” and “Smile” and stole some material from his old touring buddy, Kid Rock, as well as Kenny Rogers.

Billy Currington proved to be a crowd favorite with lots of summer drinking music such as “People Are Crazy” and “Pretty Good At Drinking Beer”.  Billy used the stage and the catwalk in a slow walk, but the crowd really responded to his easy-going music.  He closed out his set with “Good Directions”, a huge hit that was co-penned by Luke Bryan – and the crowd sang along with every word.  By the time Billy was finishing up his set, I looked up from the floor to the 3 tiers of sections in the New Meadowlands Stadium and the place was absolutely packed. 

I overheard many people who were tailgating in the parking lot state they were more excited to see the Zac Brown Band than the opener and for good reason.  This band has released 8 singles to country radio and all of them have hit number 1 on the mediabase and billboard country charts.  Zac Brown, naturally, is the lead singer and captain of the band.  However, he makes sure that the crowd knows this is not a front man act – that they are whole band.  And the entire band had their own time to shine on this day.  Zac belted out his amazing vocals and intense guitar playing skills on hits like “Toes”, “As She’s Walking Away” and “Highway 20 Ride”.   Jimmy DeMartini, the fiddle player/violinst, absolutely memorized the crowd with his ridiculous talent.  He had tons of solos such as “Quite Your Mind” and “Free” and even used his fingers on the fiddle on “Where the Boat Leaves From”.  People were shaking their heads with their jaws dropped when the spotlight was on Jimmy.

Even members like Clay Cook and Coy Bowles got their “rock star” moments on the song “Who Knows” which is essentially a ten minute jam out song with two minutes of vocals.  The drummer, Chris Fryar, changed his clothes halfway through the band’s set from a New York Jets jersey to a New York Giants jersey – which made fans of both teams smile in admiration.  Finally, John Driskell got to add some vocals on “It’s not Okay” and had the crowd dancing and laughing at the lyrics.

The band had a large group of the United States military come to the front of the stage before the song “Free” and they stayed throughout the final songs which happened to be a mash-up of “America, The Beautiful” and the band’s biggest single to date, “Chicken Fried”. 

The Zac Brown Band oozes with talent, passion, emotional and unbelievable music ability.  This band will be around for a very, very long time – and will be headlining their own Stadium Tour sometime soon, mark my word. 

After a brief delay, the rain started to fall and the crowds retreated for cover and beer refills.  But, when the lights went dark, the crowds ran to their seats – not even caring it was still raining.  And the stage curtains raised, but Kenny Chesney appeared on a raised swing in the back of the Stadium, floating above the 55,000 cheering fans.  He sang the entire first song, a recent number 1 single, “Live A Little” while flying above the crowd.

Once he landed, he was off and running, literally. The man used every inch of the massive catalk and stage.  The lights went crazy in every direction and the huge interactive screens portrayed Kenny in different sides and angles throughout the concert.  Kenny smashed through his hits and recents songs off his newest album, “Hemmingway’s Whiskey”.

Kenny Chesney is the penultimiate performer and he really showed it this night.  From his acoustic takes on “You and Tequila” to his giant hits like “I Go Back” and “Keg in the Closet”, Kenny had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He cranked out hit after hit after hit, each song performed with just as much energy as the one before. 

Kenny brought out all of his opening acts for certain select songs and covers. He of course performed “When the Sun Goes Down” with Uncle Kracker, which is one of the best summer concert songs anyone has ever written.  He kept Kracker on stage for their take on The Allman Brothers song, “Midnight Rider” and even did their best hip-hop/country mash-up to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”.

Kenny then surprised the crowd and absolutely shocked me, when he changed genres up completely and sang “Blister in the Sun”, a Violent Femmes Cover.  For this, he even brought the original songwriter of the song, Mark Tamburino, out for the song. 

Once the Encore came, Kenny ripped right into “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and brought out  Billy Currington for some help.  Unbelievably, the best part of the night was yet to come:

 

At this point of the show, Kenny brought out the Zac Brown Band as they teamed up with Chesney and his band during eight unbelievable songs.  Zac and Kenny took to the front and sang two of the famous country band, Alabama’s biggest hits: “Dixieland Delight” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”.  They teamed up for each other’s “summery” singles “Knee Deep” and “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”.

Then for good measure they brought up the New York Yankees’ slugger Nick Swish to help them sing “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band.  Any fan of baseball knows how much a swagger and overall enthusiasm Nick Swisher has and he was full of smiles and fist pumped on stage. 

Zac and Kenny and their bands finished things out with a Bob Marley, Sublime and Tom Petty Cover.  They even brought ZBB-protege Sonia Leigh, the New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan, Kenny’s mother, and others on stage to help sing and finish the party out.

Nick Swisher:

Rex Ryan:

Overall, the show was long (almost six and a half hours of music), but never slowed down.  Zac and Kenny electrified the crowd and all 55K went home happy – tired and very happy.  If there was any indication that country music was alive and well in the Garden State, you just had to look at the parking lot that became the New Jersey turnpike.  But despite the traffic and rain that night, you could tell that everyone walked away satisfied.  There are only a few more dates left on this tour and I am attending one again at the end of August – I would suggest any and all to check it out. 

 Kenny Chesney Setlist:

  1. Live a Little
  2. Reality
  3. Summertime
  4. Beer In Mexico
  5. The Woman With You
  6. Big Star
  7. I Go Back
  8. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem
  9. Anything But Mine
  10. There Goes My Life
  11. You and Tequila
  12. Living In Fast Forward
  13. Young
  14. Happy Birthday to Ken (Chesney’s road manager)
  15. Somewhere With You
  16. Don’t Happen Twice
  17. Never Wanted Nothing More
  18. Out Last Night
  19. When the Sun Goes Down with Uncle Kracker
  20. Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band Cover
  21. Cowboy – Kid Rock Cover with Uncle Kracer
  22. Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes Cover with the songwriter Mark Tamburino
  23. How Forever Feels
  24. The Boys of Fall
  25. Encore:
  1. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy with Billy Currington
  2. Dixieland Delight – Alabama Cover with Zac Brown Band
  3. If You’re Gonna Play in Texas  – Alabama Cover with Zac Brown Band
  4. Knee Deep – with the Zac Brown Band
  5. Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven – with Zac Brown Band
  6. The Joker – Steve Miller Band cover with moreZac Brown Band and appearance on-stage by Nick Swisher of New York Yankees
  7. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley Cover with Zac Brown Band
  8. Caress Me Down – Sublime Cover with Zac Brown Band
  9. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty Cover with Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band Setlist:
  1. As She’s Walking Away
  2. Toes
  3. It’s Not Okay
  4. Where the Boat Leaves From
  5. Crazy Love
  6. Islands in the Steam Cover
  7. Highway 20 Ride
  8. No Hurry
  9. Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Cover
  10. Quiet Your Mind
  11. My Name is Money – with Sonia Leigh
  12. Colder Weather
  13. Keep Me In Mid
  14. Who Knows
  15. Whatever It Is
  16. Settle Me Down
  17. Whiskey’s Gone
  18. Free
  19. America The Beautiful Cover
  20. Chicken Fried
Billy Currington Setlist:
  1. Thats How Country Boys Roll
  2. I Want To Be A Hillybilly
  3. I Got A  Feeling
  4. Love Done Gone
  5. Pretty Good At Drinking Beer
  6. All Day Long
  7. Let Me Down Easy
  8. Don’t
  9. Family Tradition – Hank Williams Jr. Cover
  10. People Are Crazy
  11. Must Be Doing Something Right
  12. Good Directions
Uncle Kracker Setlist:
  1. Little While
  2. Drift Away
  3. Follow Me
  4. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers Cover
  5. Good To Be Me
  6. All Summer Long – Kid Rock Cover
  7. Smile

Videos:

1. Quiet Your Mind – Fiddle Solo – Zac Brown Band

2. Dixie Land Delight – Kenny Chesney with the Zac Brown Band

New York Yankees’ Nick Swisher Suprises The Meadowlands with Kenny Chesney

On Saturday, August 13, 2011, Kenny Chesney brough his Goin’ Coastal Tour to the New Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  Not only was there a record breaking crowd, but – to the crowd’s delight – New York Yankees’ outfielder, Nick Swisher, appeared on stage with Chesney, Zac Brown, and at one point, the New York Jets coach, Rex Ryan.  Swisher, pictured below, jumped on stage for a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker”. 

My full review with pictures, setlists, and videos will be posted shortly.  For now enjoy the pictures of Nick Swisher on stage: