Jay-Z Hits Sydney On U2′s 360 Tour
Sydney, Australia is the place to be right now, and not simply because I’m here for the next month. Oprah‘s having the time of her life hosting four special episodes of her final season here, Kanye West‘s here recording new music, hip-hop artists like The Clipse and De La Soul and R&B veteans like 112 and Bobby Brown are each doing small shows while heavyweights Jay-Z and U2 are touring the city (and country) on the massive 360 tour, presented by Live Nation.
I attended the second Sydney show last night, held at ANZ Stadium. An open-air football arena that holds over 80,000 people, the venue was perfect for fans to enjoy two of the world’s best acts in picture-perfect weather. U2 are the headliners on this tour, a fact clear from the moment we picked up our tickets (Jay-Z’s name didn’t even make it to the paper; instead he was called “special guest”). The crowd, a strange combination of older, white rock fans and younger, multicultural rap enthusiasts, was clearly a testing ground for future collaborative efforts.
Jay hit the spaceship-themed stage while it was still daylight and kicked off the most commercial, rock-pop oriented set I’ve ever seen him perform to a scattered audience. Visibly aware he was playing support act to a crowd watching him with a mix of curiosity and disinterest, traditional hits that would send a Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy (“Can’t Knock The Hustle,” for example) were exchanged in favor of overseas favorites like “Beware Of The Boys (Panjabi MC Remix),” “Forever Young” and “Run This Town.” The “best rapper alive” did, however, quietly manage to sneak in bangers like “U Don’t Know” and “Big Pimpin’” and on the latter he freestyled Pimp C‘s verse, commanding the crowd to give it up for the deceased rapper. This provided one of the funnier moments of the night: imagine aging, long-haired rock fans in leather vests throwing up the peace sign in the memory of a late Texan MC they’ve never heard of. His only guest, right-hand man Memphis Bleek, was then given time to shine in the form of “Is That Your Chick” and handled backup duties on “99 Problems.”
Towards the end of the set, Jay spoke to the crowd earnestly. “I appreciate all the love and hospitality here. And since you welcomed me into your home tonight, I think it’s only right I take you into my home.” The opening chords of “Empire State of Mind” burst out into the arena, and the crowd finally gave Jay the reaction he was looking for. Ending on a high note, he then launched into “Encore” for his final song (the Linkin Park remix, of course).
“Lemme take my sunnies off so I can see y’all,” he said as he made his goodbyes, peppering his speech with Aussie slang. “There’s another band coming on stage next, they’re pretty good. They go by the name U2.” With that, he saluted the audience (which finally had reached near capacity) and casually walked off stage as chants for the main act began.