Review by Ryan Fleisher (Photo by Donna Permell)
“What’s my motherfuckin name?” “JIGGA,” the sold-out crowd belted back to Jay-Z on Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Fans needed no reminder but they were happy to answer every call-and-response hook he let us have. And the entire show went like this – no matter how tight, how fast the flow, the audience kept up. The interaction was as high a level as any show I have seen.
Jay-Z opened the show by saying, “Love Trumps Hate – dont y’all ever give up.” While he kept the banter to a minimum, when he paused to pass along a message the overall themes were about being positive and overcoming.”Protesting – being on one knee isn’t about the flag; it’s about justice. It’s not a black and white issue; it’s a human issue,” he said later in the night. The positivity carried over into the crowd as they danced and sang along with every word coming out of Jay’s mouth.
And then he unleashed a flurry of his most popular hits – “IZZO (H.O.V.A.),” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “I Just Want to Love You,” “99 Problems,” and “Big Pimpin’.” It was a direct throwback to all the good times I had in high school and college, surrounded by Jay-Z’s music. Both the beats and rhymes are unbeatable, so the crowd surrendered and went along for the ride.
The arena was on its feet from start to finish passionately singing out the chorus to “Empire State of Mind” at the top of their lungs to nailing every rhyme of “Niggas in Paris” with Jay’s delivery. He even went the extra mile and paid tribute to collaborator and friend, the late Chester Bennington by playing their mashup Numb/Encore at the end of the set. “Atlanta, you could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me.” We tuned in to the mu’fuckin greatest, and he delivered.