NEW YORK — There is always palpable exhilaration whenever Jay-Z plays Madison Square Garden. Tuesday night (March 2) was another sold-out show at MSG as Hov's Blueprint 3 Tour arrived in town.
After Trey Songz played up to the ladies with his set, there was a short intermission. Like lightning -- boom! The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" video began playing on two big screens that hung over the stage, and a 10-minute countdown began perfectly in sync with the classic hip-hop track. Hova chants started several minutes prior to that.
Finally, with no time left on the clock, Jay's music began. He was greeted with a deafening roar of approval. "Feel it coming in the air," Rihanna's recorded voice from "Run This Town" blasted through the arena.
Jay rose from underneath the stage, rolling his head around his shoulders like a young Mike Tyson getting ready for a prize fight. Jay, like Tyson in the '80s, knows he's a dominant force in any ring, any arena, but especially at the Garden, he's unstoppable.
Jay then brought out Memphis Bleek and told his former neighbor in the Marcy Projects he wanted him to see something special. Like a wizard, Jigga waved his hand around the arena and made fans scream.
"I wanna be careful how I phrase this, because it's one of my heroes," Jay said. "Madison Square Garden used to be Run's House. But 'Run's House' is now on MTV. Madison Square Garden is now 'The House That Hov Built.' "
His assertion was backed up with triumphant showings of "On to the Next One," "U Don't Know," "99 Problems" and "Show Me What You Got."
"Empire State of Mind" felt special in the Garden. Jay's performance of the record filled the arena with hometown pride. It's the closest feeling the crowd at the Garden will get to the Knicks winning the championship ... at least until LeBron James signs with the team next year (fingers crossed).
James was in attendance, along with his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Ross, Gwyneth Paltrow, Diddy and Cash Money Records CEO the Birdman. Birdman was on hand to cheer on his "son" Lil Wayne. Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj had the show-stealing moment as part of Young Jeezy's set. The Snowman also brought out Akon.
Jeezy came out about 40 minutes into Jay's show, and the two did "Real as It Gets" from Blueprint 3. After handing Jeezy the keys to MSG for a while, Jay came back and traded rhymes with his Southern partner on the remixes of "Put On" and "My President." Trey Songz came out with Jay as well to help out on "Heart of the City" and "Already Home."
The Blueprint 3 Tour stopped with an "overtime" session that saw Jay take his fans back as far as the Reasonable Doubt days with "Ain't No N---a" and "Can I Live."
"Am I going too far back? This moment is only for us," he added of himself and fans of his first LP.
Hov then brought it up a few years for "Big Pimpin'," with Jay urging everyone to wave whatever they had from rags to bandanas to hats in the air, Carnivale-style.
"I don't take it for granted," Jay said of the fan love. "I appreciate everyone in the building tonight. Thank you, and I hope we return the love tenfold.
The legendary MC then asked to do one more record: "Encore."
Hov is going to be in the Tri-State Area with a few shows during these next two weeks. He plays Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel as well as the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island next week.