ATLANTIC CITY — During the last decade, rap superstar Jay-Z worked with R&B master R. Kelly and called the CD and subsequent tour, “The Best of Both Worlds.”
Although officially billed as the Blueprint 3 tour, the show Jay-Z brought Saturday to the sold-out Event Center inside the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa could have been called, The Best of Both Worlds – Junior Division with rising R&B star Trey Songz in place of R. Kelly.
Jay-Z and R. Kelly were co-headliners, but there was no doubt about who was the top dog when the rapper stepped on stage at 9:10 p.m. in front of more than 2,000 screaming and standing fans.
Jay-Z, 39, wasted no time matching the excitement from the fans who were waiting for him by launching into his hit “Run This Town” with his DJ playing the hook that is sung by Rihanna. With all tickets priced at $150, the rapper didn’t just have a DJ. Two keyboardists, a three-piece horn section and a guitarist, bassist and drummer also accompanied him.
The Brooklyn native came out dressed in all black, just like it’s mentioned in the song. People stood at the front of the Event Center, but even those with seats on the risers in the middle were standing.
Jay-Z followed “Run This Town” with another song from his newest CD, “The Blueprint 3,” titled “On To The Next One,” featuring ear-rattling bass work. After another of his recent singles, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” he took off his jacket as the energy in the group went to another level with the appearance of fellow rapper Memphis Bleek and his first dip into his back catalog with “U Don’t Know” from “The Blueprint” from 2001.
One of the most surprising things about Jay-Z in concert is the devotion of his fans.
The owner of the 40/40 Club, located on Atlantic Avenue here, can stop rapping at virtually any time during one of his lyrically densely packed songs, and the crowd just takes over the raps without him. Hands were waving from side to side for “Show Me What You Got,” and they put their hands into a diamond shape to represent his label, Roc-A-Fella Records, both with and without his prompting.
Jay-Z showed his range, rapping a speedy a cappella to “Hovi Baby” that even had him saying at the end of it, “That boy Hov (one of Jay-Z’s nicknames) is bad.”
The rapper has so many hits that he had to cut some versions short, for instance, “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” from 2000. He didn’t just limit himself to his songs. He also did his rap from the song “Swagga Like Us” from the rapper T.I.’s “Paper Trail” CD from 2008.
With his hits, charisma, enthusiastic fans and high-production values for his shows, a Jay-Z concert is always a worthwhile night out.
Opening the show and appearing on stage with Jay-Z during his set was Songz, from Virginia. If someone could clone a generation-younger version of R. Kelly, it would be Songz, but this is not meant as a slam. Songz, 25, has an impressive falsetto. He carries himself on stage with the confidence of the ladykiller that he portrays in his songs.
R.Kelly probably wishes that he came up with two of Songz’s most recent singles, “I Invented Sex” and “Neighbors Know My Name.”
Songz, dressed in all black just like Jay-Z, brought a woman from the audience up on stage during his set. He also took off his black T-shirt, which revealed his tattooed upper body and black underwear visible from his low-slung pants, wiped his face with it and tossed it into the audience.
The singer’s sex appeal was apparent even off stage as he walked through The Living Room at Borgata after his set and was greeted with shrieks, and women screaming “I love you!”
Songz already performed a sold-out show on Valentine’s Day at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. Expect to hear more from him in the future as he is only on his third CD with a recording career that is only five years old.
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