Better Than: “Louboutins with the red bottoms.”
R. Kelly got it wrong. Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z are actually the best of both worlds. I mean, bumping a track is one thing; I’d even seen them perform together on MTV Unplugged: Jay-Z, but to witness these icons on a stage in Dallas in all their black-clad, blinged-out, sunglass-adorned, New York City-swagger splendor was surreal.
Looking very fit in a pair of shiny black leggings, enviable knee-high boots and a blinding, jewel-encrusted trench coat, Mary J. performed hits from her golden era. “You Remind Me,” “Reminisce,” “Real Love,” “Love No Limit” and the like had every woman in the spot on her feet and singing her heart out. Taking off her coat, Blige ushered in a set of mild grooves. I’ve seen her show a number of times now, but Mary J. never fails to entertain. From her silhouetted dance/pose-off to Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” to the brilliant pyrotechnics at the high point of “Be Without You,” the audience remained engaged. By far the highlight of her performance was her passionate, anguish-filled expulsion of “No More Drama.” She SANG that song; it was so rousing that I expected some folks to catch the Holy Ghost.
When Blige took her bow, the crowd said “hello to the bad guy” as Jay-Z descended rapping his song of the same name. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how perfectly seamless their sets were. Both artists executed this show like it was the Grammy awards, replete with the best looking stage I’ve seen at a live performance.
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Jay-Z’s catalog is mind-numbingly good. Just when I thought I’d heard my absolute favorite song (“Can I Live”), he’d play another (“Jigga What”). We enjoyed a surprise appearance from Memphis Bleek. Counting down from five, they exploded into the searing-hot track “You Don’t Know.”
Jigga taunted the crowd with snippets of songs the audience yearned to hear before kicking off “Big Pimpin’.” He and Blige closed the show together with two songs, ending in a deafening explosion that left both the performers and the audience walking away triumphantly. It was one of the very few times I didn’t see people rally for an encore. The end was so finite, punctuated by the drummer flinging his drumsticks across the stage, that everyone knew they’d just witnessed part of music history. -- Quia Querisma
Critic’s notebook Personal Bias: There’s something about Jay-Z that turns me into the exact type of concert-goer that I make fun of. I scream hysterically, stand the whole time, dance and sing every lyric with him.
Random Detail: It was ironic to see Jay-Z standing silently in his b-boy stance as middle fingers and boos rose from the audience when President Bush’s face illuminated the digital screen. Jay asked everyone if they were they ready for change as a smiling Barack Obama appeared on the screen; the crowd exploded in cheers.