Last Night: Jay-Z, Young Jeezy and Trey Songz at the American Airlines Center

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Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, Trey Songz
American Airlines Center
February 23, 2010

Better than: Any other show you've seen in 2010. And maybe better than any other show you will...

Come on, now.

Thankfully, as the night continues, the rapper proves that he's got more up his sleeve. And, live, it's the technicality of his vocal stylings that truly shine.

On record, it's easy to miss--slick production, prominent beats and clever wordplay takes the cake there. But in person--whether his live nine-piece backing band is playing behind him or dropping out to let Jay spit a capella--he leaves no doubt.

Best rapper alive? Without question. (Sorry Weezy.)

In total, the shining, if guarded, superstar performed for around 80 minutes on the American Airlines Center stage--which was decorated with a New York City skyline-shaped LED screen backdrop--for a set split in two, with a gritty 20-minute performance from Young Jeezy serving as the night's intermission.

And there were plenty of guests: Jeezy joined Jay for Blueprint 3 song "Real As It Gets" to launch his short set; Jay returned later to join Jeezy and reclaim the stage on Jeezy's Recession song "My President"; earlier in the night, opening act Trey Songz, whose own set at the start of the night played specifically (and kind of creepily) to the female crowd, joined Jay on Blueprint 3's "Already Home"; and, shortly thereafter, singer Bridget Kelly joined Jay to sing Alicia Keys' parts on Blueprint 3's super-smash, "Empire State of Mind."

Indeed, the first half of the set, which also featured some assistance from longtime Jay-Z sideman Memphis Bleek, was loaded with Blueprint 3 tracks and other recent hits--a whopping 17 songs in 40 minutes. It was quick, but nothing compared to the display that came upon Jay's return, in which he rattled off a 13-song greatest hits medley in a 20-minute rapid-fire session that was beyond impressive--frustratingly so, in fact. It was something of a tease--none of these songs were played at full length--and when the beat dropped out and Jay kept going without it, he double-timed his rhymes, leaving the audience struggling to keep up.

It was almost an athletic display on his part. Seemed he should've been out of breath even--only, well, he wasn't. The audience was--fans gasped in awe at the display, friends shared high-fives and smiles. The medley went non-stop until the opening notes of "Big Pimpin'" started blaring over the P.A., signaling the beginning of the end of the night.

But before that end--which would come, naturally, with The Black Album's "Encore"--Jay made sure to thank his audience rather profusely, and charmingly (he even gave one fan near the stage his black fitted Yankee cap from right off the top of his head).

Seemed he was the one worth thanking, though. And as the same elevator entrance that lifted him up to the stage took him back down and he waved his goodbyes, the crowd cheered its thanks back to him in spades.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've only seen Jay-Z live once before--and it was at a radio concert back in 2000. He's come a long way since then.

Random Note: You've never seen the American Airlines Center look more hood-ed out than it did during Jeeezy's 20-minute set. As for his performance, it was pretty good, if a little bland. Seriously, every song that guy has sounds exactly the same.

By The Way: Clearly, you all found my super-secret free parking spots around Victory Park last night. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

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