7:22 p.m.: God Dammit. The show was advertised as starting at 7 p.m. on the Toyota Center site, which of course means it'll start exactly at 8 p.m., which of course means it'll really start AROUND 8:15 p.m., which is more like 8:30 p.m., but we still haven't figured out that this is how all rap concerts work because we're a moron so we're at the show an hour early with all of the other unimportant people. 7:23: Joey Guerra from the Chronicle just sat down next to us. We shake his hand and make nice, but secretly hope that the Twitter app on his phone dies about 30 minutes into the show. That would just drive him nuts, for certain. By our calculations, he's been here for about 45 seconds so that should means he's tweeted 1,200 times already. It's like the guy has 17 fingers or something. 8:01: Sitting to our left is a mom who brought her 14-year-old son and a couple of his friends. They're a nice group. She's originally from New York and is perplexed by the amount of drugs not being done at this concert. She's also a gynecologist. We mention this because we plan on referencing her later, at which point we will refer to her as Gyno-Mom. Thanks.
8:09: Oh, hey, Trey Songz is starting. He's an hour and 10 minutes late but that's like he's actually 10 minutes early. Cool, cool. 8:09:30: They're showing that album cover of Songz where he has his shirt off on a big screen. It looks like he's either got an outtie or his belly button is pierced. Doesn't matter which it is though, because both options are gross. 8:14: Ack. Some obnoxious guy in a neck scarf is sitting a couple rows down from us. Just to be clear about this, readers: If you wear a scarf indoors and you're not Kanye West, Jay-Z or the guy from the Red Baron Pizza box, you look like a fool. 8:22 [yawn]: That's a clever way of saying that the show up to this point has been pretty boring without actually saying it. And that's a clarification that's really a backhanded insult, seeing as how we figured that some of you all might not be able to put that first arrowed statement together. 8:30: Songz has one of those big light walls behind him that people have been using a lot lately. When utilized properly, it can be very, very effective. When used improperly, however, you end up looking at a bunch of shots of a guy licking some girl's chest or some roses on fire or something. 8:35: One kind of notable thing about the light wall: A couple of times, they'll flash a girl's silhouette up there. And Songz is positioned in just the right spot so that the shadow of his head is in the her crotch. We're not sure if that was an accident or not, but it's funny for sure. It's like she's giving breech birth to a very self-indulgent shadow.
8:36: During Songz's "I Invented Sex" the DJ hollers out over and over again, "Who fuckin' tonight?! Who fuckin' tonight?!" It's an all ages show. Gyno-Mom is unfazed by the profanity. We wonder how many of these people will end up in her office in a few months because they, in fact, are fuckin' tonight. 8:39: Okay, analysis: Trey Songz is clearly very talented. He's young and brash and fancies himself very, very sexy. And his songs -on the radio, at least- are very catchy. But he's lacking any substantial real-life appeal. He seems more like A guy up on stage than THE guy on stage. There were maybe nine people that stood during his show. The rest of the people in attendance sat and watched and tried their best not to get pregnant. 9:03: Oh shit. A tussle in the club area (near the 120s sections) spilled down into the seats and ended with a woman getting into a fight with a few security guards. Gyno-Mom's response: "You know the show has been bad when a fight in the stands is the most interesting part of an evening." Gyno-Mom is a Gyno-Genius. We were thinking the exact same thing. 9:14: Songz has been off stage for a while now and Obnoxious Neck Scarf Guy is in full-on Let Me See How Many People I Can Make Hate Me Before The End Of The Night mode. Dude, we get it, you're wearing a scarf and your belt has studs on it. Way to go.
9:26: A ten-minute countdown just came on each of the large screens on the side of the stage. There's still Jeezy to sit through before Jay. It's looking like the show will be over sometime around 4 p.m. on Thursday. 9:37: WHAT THE?! The countdown finished and Jay rose up slowly from a trap door near the middle of the back section of the stage. The place is going nuts. Everyone is on their feet. Everyone was (we're assuming) feeling very Are You Serious? about having to sit through another act before Jay and here he is. Very, very ill move. Nobody even bothers to ask where Jeezy is. Maybe he's busy putting on for his city.
9:44: Jay-Z has a substantial amount of gravitas. It's hard to wrap your head around how any singular person can represent all that currently does (i.e. being the most important living figure in a culture that has shaped a significant portion of the last two generations). He just feels important. A perfect example: At one point, he accepts a bottle of water from someone near the stage and drinks from it. It's a move you'll see at just about any concert. Hardly something to make note of. But when he does it, the room, all 15,000 or so people, swoon. Whoever he took that bottle from will tell that story for the rest of his or her life. Trey Songz, though he was woefully tacky in his sexuality, put forth a decent amount of effort into his show, but just the sight Jay-Z drinking water was more memorable. Jay-Z seems like more than a person, and that's not at all by accident. Now, if you'll excuse us for a bit, we're going to try and wait out this boner. 9:46: Memphis Bleek has made an appearance. Didn't expect that. 9:47: Jay just gave a shout out to Stevie Franchise, who's apparently celebrating his birthday tonight at the show. Maybe somebody will give him an assist as a gift, because he sure as shit didn't hand out too many himself. (Face, Stevie.)
9:55: Rather than use a single light wall, Jay's background (which is behind a full band) is a bunch of light panels that vary in height, ranging anywhere from maybe 10 feet to 50 feet, so it almost looks like a skyline. His lighting team uses these to great effect. 9:57: One of the more impressive things about a Jay-Z show is that it's almost impossible to be there and not feel cool or unfettered. Even Obnoxious Neck Scarf Guy seems reasonable right now. 9:59: Jay is KILLING it. He's hitting on all of the songs you'd want him to; a bunch of Blueprint III stuff and snippets of his classics. 10:19: "Empire State of Mind." The place is buzzing. Even Gyno-Mom is up singing. 10:21: Jay just hit on "As Real As It Gets" from BP3 and Jeezy came up from that same trap door in the stage. Coming up slowly from the ground is just a great entrance. It makes everything more interesting. Staff meetings are the worst, but if our boss started them by coming up from the ground through one of those doors, we might be less inclined to hope that a plane crashes into the side of our building each time we have one. 10:38: Jeezy is surprisingly capable. You forget how many memorable verses and features he has to lean on. Although, his shows Enjoyability factor might be skewed a bit by him coming on after Jay got everyone super pumped. You could've probably let a couple of chickens run around on stage eating bird feed for 15 minutes after Jay did "Empire State of Mind" and the room would've been like, "YO! THOSE ARE SOME BAD MUTHA FUCKIN' CHICKENS, SON!" 10:48: "I Put On" by Jeezy. That's a great song. It's also just about time to wrap this set up. 10:49: "My President Is Black." And Jay is back. Totally called it. 10:56: "Thank You" from BP3. It feels like the show is coming to a close. Obnoxious Neck Scarf Guy is already feeling more assholey. 10:59: Maybe not. Jigga just played the "Okay, Fuck It, We're Going Into Overtime Now Because You Guys Have Been Such A Great Audience" move and the crowd went berserk. We don't want to start rumors because it was kind of hard to see, but right after he gave the little overtime spiel he wandered to the front of the stage and called out some dudes for not standing up during the show. He says, "I know you're cool, big man. I know. But we working hard up here. Stand up." Normally, this would have been nothing, but real quick on the two big screens by the stage the camera people showed who Jigga was talking to and it looked, looked, looked like it might have possibly been an upper-echelon Houston rapper. Did anyone else catch that? Not too long later that the group of guys made their way out of the show before it was over. Can anyone out there confirm this?
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SHOW ME HOW
11:02: Jay touches on maybe 15 seconds of ten different hits. "I got a million of these," he says. If there's a rapper with more hits in his career, we've never seen him. Snoop, maybe? Maybe. But probably not. 11:07: Jay stops the DJ and says he's got something special. (It feels an awful lot like the Bun B Law of Inevitability is going to prove itself once again.) He says to take a towel or rag or shirt and wave it. He counts down from ten. At zero "Big Pimpin'" comes blaring out. The crowd is yo-yo. After Jay's verse Bun comes sauntering out. Jay tells the DJ to cut the music off and Bun tears through his verse a cappella. He and Jay are arms around each other, swaying to and from the crowd. Jay starts Pimp C's verse. The crowd responds. It is bananas. The room is electric. We're all best friends. It is arguably the best part of the evening. 11:07:30: A little more regarding that last bullet: That Bun isn't overshadowed by Jay while he's on stage with him is astounding. They seemed genuinely affectionate and appreciative towards one another. It's the type of camaraderie that comes from building a symbiotic relationship with someone. We don't know that we've ever seen a more revealing cosign at a Houston rap concert. Take that to mean Jay was cosigning Bun's greatness, or Bun Jay's; either way, it's correct. 11:15: Jay burns through even more hits. He covered everything from "Hard Knock Life" to a version of "Hate" that turned into a very impressive acapella to a snippet of his feature on Kanye's "Sierra Leone" remix to "Jigga What" to "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" (complete with Obama video clip) to "Heart of the City" to "99 Problems" to just about everything in between. (About the only noticeable absence was "Song Cry.") Amazing. It will be hard for another show to top this as Rap Concert of the Year. Hey look, there's that boner again. 11:17: Jay closes out by turning the lights up, giving dap to a few kids in the front row, then singling out a few people from each section and thanking them for coming out. He spots Stevie Franchise again and asks everyone to join in on singing him Happy Birthday, only to cut it off one line in saying at Stevie, "Alright, alright. That's enough. Tickets wasn't that expensive." Always funny to make fun of Steve Francis.
Jay drops a couple of verses from "Encore" and that's that.
For many more photos from the concert, check out our slideshow.