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The New Sinatra: Jay Z captivates a near-capacity crowd at the Wells Fargo Center

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

There are few artists, bar any genre, who can command a stage and engage a crowd like Jay Z. At this point in his career, based on performances like last night, and the breadth of his dozen studio albums, it’s clear that he ranks right up there with the greats like Bruce Springsteen and U2.

Last night at the Wells Fargo Center, undistracted by fancy stage sets or costume changes, Jay relied on the his strengths to captivate the near-capacity crowd. Standing center stage, Jay delivered a handful of songs from Magna Carta Holy Grail, and more than a handful of classics. The man’s got a deep catalogue and hit on classics like “99 Problems,” “Dead Presidents,” “Big Pimpin,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “U Don’t Know.”

One of Jay Z’s smartest career moves was to learn how to play his music with a band (see the MTV Unplugged from 2001 that he recorded with The Roots). The four piece that backed him last night included producer and DJ Timbaland on keyboards and programming, drummer Tony Royster Jr., and Philadelphians Omar Edwards on keyboards and guitarist/bassist Clay Sears. They were stellar, efficient and rocking through out the entire show and really brought to life the new material they played from Magna Carta Holy Grail. Jay turned “Holy Grail” into a massive stadium sing along. They dug deep into the grooves on “Somewhere In America,” “Tom Ford,” and “Picasso Baby.” Their playing on “Oceans,” the song that features Frank Ocean, lifted the song to an emotionally intensity.

Jay Z and Timbaland | Photo by John Vettese

Midway through the show, Jay left the stage, allowing Timbaland to perform a short DJ set that featured a medley of hits that he produced for other musicians and was followed by one of the highlights of the show – a cameo appearance from Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill. Meek performed “Ima Boss” and completely brought the house to an emotional high. His explosive energy lifted the show into high gear and left the stage to voluminous applause.

Jay took over from there, running through material from some of his collaborations including the hip-hop classics “Clique,” (from the G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer album) and “Ni**as in Paris,” (from his collaboration with Kanye West, Watch The Throne). Just a couple of minutes after the lights went down, Jay came out and encored with some of his most popular songs: “Encore,” “PSA,” “Empire State of Mind” – during which he kept yelling “Philly!” “Philly!” – “Izzo (H.O.V.A), “Public Service Announcement,” and he ended with “Young Forever,” which he dedicated to Nelson Mandela.

For two and a half hours, Jay more than lived up to his boast of “I’m the new Sinatra.”

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Meshell Ndegeocello at World Cafe Live, Luray at Burlap and Bean, Jason Isbell at Union Transfer and more

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Photo via facebook.com/officialmeshell

The ever soulful jazz/ R&B singer/instrumentalist Meshell Ndegeocello will perform a tribute to Nina Simone at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington tonight. Backed by a full band, Ndegeocello will incorporate her unique jazz and gospel flair into Simone’s large repertoire of classic tunes, breathing new life into the iconic music written by or associated with Simone. Ndegeocello’s 2012 tribute album Pour Une Âme Souveraine (For a Sovereign Soul): A Dedication to Nina Simone features covers of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” among countless other classics, and the tribute performance this evening is not to be missed. Read The Key’s interview with Ndegeocello here. Find tickets and more info on the performance here.

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Jay-Z honors Pimp C on “Tom Ford” remix (playing Wells Fargo Center on 1/29)

Photo via www.facebook.com/JayZ
Photo via www.facebook.com/JayZ

Jay-Z invited fans to share in his birthday (December 4th) bliss by offering them a little treat: a “Tom Ford” remix featuring an unreleased verse from the late Pimp C. As the original version, which is featured on Jay’s latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail, continues to dominate urban radio, hearing Pimp C’s flow on the remix brings to mind their hit collaboration, “Big Pimpin.” Get the remix via Okayplayer here, and get tickets to Jay-Z’s January 29th show at Wells Fargo Center here.

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Just Announced: Jay Z brings his Magna Carta World Tour to the Wells Fargo Center on 1/29

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After wrapping his second annual Made in America Festival over Labor Day weekend, Jay Z has announced a North American leg of his Magna Carta World Tour that brings him to the Wells Fargo Center on January 29th.

Jay (born Shawn Carter) released his Magna Carta Holy Grail record earlier this summer, timing it pretty well to get hype alongside Kanye West’s rival Yeezus.  If that timing felt like the pair were playing leap frog for attention, how about this: Jay Z’s announcement comes mere minutes after West’s declaration of his own first solo tour in five years.

But whether that’s a calculated tactic to keep pace with West or just a coincidence, a Jay Z solo tour is big news for fans.  Especially for those who were at Carter’s August date with Justin Timberlake; the Legends of the Summer show was a top notch spectacle that was purportedly “the climax of the summer of 2013 in Philly.”  Tickets and information for the 2014 date go on sale September 12th and will be available here.  Watch Jay z’s video for “Holy Grail below.

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Showtime to debut Ron Howard’s Made In America documentary on October 11

Run DMC at Made In America 2012
Run DMC at Made In America 2012

Last year, Ron Howard recorded the first Made In America festival. The documentary about the festival will debut on Showtime on October 11th at 9 P.M. The Jay Z-curated festival was documented by Howard and features behind-the-scenes footage as well as performances from many of the artists including Jay, Janelle Monae, Gary Clark, Jr., Pearl Jam, Dirty Projectors, Skrillex, the electrifying return of Run DMC and others. Watch the trailer below. Made In America 2.0 is tomorrow and Sunday and features performances from Beyonce, Phoenix, Solange, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan, Imagine Dragons and more. More information here.

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9 live collaborations we hope will happen at Made in America

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Ahh, music festivals. There are so many reasons to <3 live festivals, from the constant performances all around you, to stumbling upon your new favorite groups, to the energy and vibes of everybody else, excited to be outside, watching their favorite bands.

Yet music festivals aren’t just great places to catch sets—they’re also unique breeding grounds that allow myriad artists, who might not necessarily perform together otherwise, to come together, spurring new or unique collaborations. From Bob Dylan joining Joan Baez at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival—to Bon Iver joining Kanye more recently at Coachella—we love being surprised by artists not afraid to try something new. In honor of the Made in America festival hitting town this weekend—here are 9 dream collaborations we’ve love to see live—and a rough guess at the probability of each. Continue reading →

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