BROOKLYN -- When the lineup was announced late last month for TixalX1020, the star-studded show put on by Jay Z's streaming service, the collective reaction seemed to be, "Whoa!" And that was with good reason.
Not only was Hov going to be hitting the stage at the Barclays Center, he'd be joined by his powerhouse cast of Tidal co-owners: Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Usher, T.I., Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Nick Jonas, Damian Marley and more.
As the event was upon us, last night, just before 8 p.m., as I was navigating a sea of people on Atlantic Avenue and trying to make my way to the stadium's entrance, a question was looming in my mind: How, logistically, would Jay and co. pull this off? How would so many artists share the stage in one night? I even pulled out my phone to Google what the arena's curfew was (something I read said 1 a.m., but I couldn't find much), and then trying to do some quick math about how set times might be divvied up.
It turned out the answer was simple: Each artist would get one or two songs -- maybe three, in the rarest of cases -- and then be on their way.
This left many fans seated around me -- and, likely the rest in the house, if the imprecise sample was indicative of the whole -- often disappointed.
"No! No! Don't go, Nick!" a girl in front of me shouted after Jonas exited the stage following his performance of "Levels." The couple behind me was similarly perplexed when Usher headed backstage after just one song -- even though he brought out Nas. Similarly, T.I. did just two songs, and Vic Mensa and Damian Marley did one.
With that quick-hitting, on-then-off pace of the performances, there was a weird, counterintuitive reality that took place. Tidal and the show's organizers did an incredible job of seamlessly moving from one artist's set to the next -- once the show started, at about 8:30 p.m., there was almost no down time in between acts. In theory, this was a very good thing; you never want to be standing around at a concert, bored, waiting for what and who might come next, even though, so often, even in small venues with little-known acts, that's the case.
But the show's smooth transitions, coupled with the short sets of the artists, made it so that it was hard for there to ever be real momentum onstage or in the crowd. The performances were typically too short to build towards big moments, and the lack of time in between artists, while theoretically great, also undercut the chance for anticipation to build.
Yet, despite the generally odd pacing of the show on the whole, there were a collection of moments -- particularly during the latter third of the concert -- that you seldom, if ever, get to see in person. Let alone all in one night. It was enough, it seemed, to make some forget how little they'd seen of Nick Jonas and Usher and Tip.
The earliest signs of a shift came when Meek Mill hit the stage, performing the always-riotous "Dream and Nightmares (Intro)," which in itself -- with its classic beat switch and energy flip -- was enough to breathe life into the crowd. But he upped the ante, rapping his way off the main stage on the arena's south end, and walking towards a second stage set up in the middle of the floor. There, he was then joined by Rick Ross for "Ima Boss," before French Montana and DJ Khaled joined for "Stay Schemin" and "All I Do Is Win." Those collection of guys performing, together, on what looked to be a 30-square-foot stage, was pretty impressive.
The stakes were only raised from there, though.
When Fabolous hit the stage, during his performance of "Brooklyn," he was joined by that song's guest and the man of the hour, Jay Z. From there, a relay of epic proportions took hold: Hov rocked a set of a few favorites -- "Where I'm From," "U Don't Know" -- before launching into his 2007 jam "Hello Brooklyn 2.0." Halfway through, he was joined by that song's guest, Lil Wayne.
Tunechi performed "No Worries," before tagging in his Young Money labelmate Nicki Minaj. Much to fans' delight, Nicki did "Truffle Butter" and "Moment for Life," leading into her first live performance of "Feeling Myself," alongside Beyoncé. The chemistry the two had onstage, their dance-off, the excitement in the room -- it was all amazing.
When Nicki exited, Jay was back, this time joined by Bey, for what she called, "my favorite song to sing with my husband," "Holy Grail" (and it sure looked that way onstage). Jay wrapped things up by himself with "Empire State Of Mind," and promised, "This is our first annual event. We gonna run this sh-t again and again and again."
We'll have to wait 'til next year to see what they've got in store for round two, but if it's anything like the inaugural don't expect to see all of your favorite artist's hits, but be prepared for some truly memorable moments.