Jay-Z @ Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn, NY 9/28/2012

“Nothing feels like tonight,” Jay-Z kept repeating on-stage at last night’s Barclay’s Center-opening blowout, a night that Jay himself and NYC developer (/civic villain, depending on who you talk to) Bruce Ratner had dreamed up almost a decade ago. Though both were keen to enjoy their moment in the sun — high-definition video screens curled around the corners of the new arena flashed “Thank You Bruce Ratner” before the show began and Jay joked with Rolling Stone that “This is my one time to be selfish!” — there was a palpable sense of anxiety. Despite the impressiveness of Barclay’s gleaming, marble-and-steel interior and it’s imposing, alien-looking exterior, it’s easy to remember that none of this came easily, even on the backs of unstoppable personalities like Ratner and Shawn Carter, as the Battle For Brooklyn fed years of longform hand-wringing. Phrases like “The End Of Brooklyn” have been thrown around in bushels. For an evening basically billed as a celebration of Brooklyn’s cultural impact, it was pretty tense.

Most Jay-Z shows I’ve seen operate as long showcases of his boast “I’ve got a million of these!” — song after song, hit after hit, it’s quite possible that there are a million of these. But tonight’s focus was less on that rattling, ever-effective method of doing things, and tilted toward the more introspective; Jay snapped off personal, customized freestyle and seemed to meditate between each song, clearly in awe of how a night, forever talked about and anticipated and idealized and scripted but in reality something else, had finally come. At the beginning of the set, he spent time asserting his Brooklyn, projecting a big vision of Biggie during a quick dalliance into “Kick In The Door” and “Juicy.” Jay-Z stood alone on stage, his band obscured in the stage’s set, a sloping, glossy pyramid base. “You can stunt like that when you own the whole place, though,” he said. He also unveiled the Nets’ new jersey merely by walking on stage with it on. Minutes later, the jersey was available to purchase in the Barclay’s Centers Nets Shop.

Keeping the focus on the locality, Big Daddy Kane was the only guest, showing up for a flicker during the encore before handing it back over the the host. The crowd was kind of out of it at this point — in their defense, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by everything that was going on all at once — but Jay-Z lingered to cement his perfect night, coordinating with the crowd and the house lights for the perfect outro (to “Young Forever”). The house lights went up when he didn’t mean for them to, and the keyboardist wasn’t playing it the way he may have envisioned in his head — “I want chords,” he said. Eventually, he made his way out through the same tunnel which he entered, and 19,000 people walked out into Brooklyn’s newest reality.

01 “Where I’m From”
02 “Brooklyn Go Hard”
03 “Kick in the Door”
04 “Juicy”
05 “U Don’t Know”
06 “99 Problems”
07 “Run This Town”
08 “Empire State of Mind”
09 “On to the Next One”
10 “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”
11 “Give It to Me”
12 “Big Pimpin'”
13 “Murda Murda”
14 “Dead Presidents”
15 “Can I Live”
16 “PSA”
17 “Jigga My Nigga”
18 “I.Z.Z.O”
19 “Jigga What”
20 “Hard Knock Life”
21 “Heart of the City”
22 “Encore”

23 “What More Can I Say”
24 “Do It Again”

Big Daddy Kane
“Ain’t No Half Steppin'”
“Set It Off”
“Warm It Up”

25 “Clique”
26 “3 Kings”
27 “Best of Me”
28 “Money Ain’t a Thing”
29 “Money Cash Hoes”
30 “Young Forever”