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Concert Review | Jay-Z delivers successful, energetic concert

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 08:01

It may be hard to believe, but Shawn Carter, the businessman, husband to Beyoncé, temporary vegan and video game producer is still a rapper — and as such, he still performs with a swagger and audacity that has not been seen in hip-hop since the unfortunate death of his friend and fellow Brooklynite the Notorious B.I.G. Indeed, there is no doubt that Jay-Z, despite his age, can still put on the show of a lifetime.

As a part of the Magna Carter World Tour, Jay-Z stopped at Boston’s TD Garden on Jan. 18 to support the album he released last summer. Despite some chart success, Jay-Z’s 12th work — regally titled “Magna Carta Holy Grail” — was a disappointment in a summer of hip-hop dominated by several Drake songs that reached the Top 40, Kendrick Lamar’s continuing rise to stardom and a pseudo-rivalry involving Kanye West and J. Cole. Jay-Z reminded listeners about his age and business endeavors, which made it seem like they’re beginning to take priority over his rap career.

The Magna Carter World Tour has so far proved this false — with the Brooklyn rapper treating attendees to a beautifully lit stage that warped and transformed perfectly as the Roc-A-Fella co-founder demonstrated his smooth flow. In “U Don’t Know” (2001), fans were reminded of Jay-Z’s humble beginnings — the former crack dealer from the Marcy Projects who can now truly say he has made it. Each lyric was delivered with an undeniable combination of confidence, charisma and talent. A fantastic backup band also accompanied Jay, with phenomenal players on electric guitar, keyboard and drums. Occupying their designated spaces at different levels on the elaborate stage, the band served as a complementary element of the grandiose sound that Jay-Z created.

The show changed pace midway through, as the rapper sandwiched two tracks off of his 1996 classic “Reasonable Doubt” between some of his best work from the 21st century. “Dead Presidents II” (1996) and “Can I Live” (1996) were both expertly performed and served as a shout out to dedicated fans that were more familiar with this early material.

However, the whole concert was not merely a tongue-twisting display of cleverness and street knowledge, but rather a party that celebrated years of memorable songs and shifting styles. Jay-Z provided a fun, energetic environment for concertgoers with renditions of “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” (2004) and “Paris” (2011), which had the crowd jumping. He performed with the spirit of a young man and had the delivery of a seasoned veteran.

This spirit was fully demonstrated during the encore performances. The aptly titled “Encore” (2003) started off this segment of the show and was quickly followed by timeless hits like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (2001) and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” (1998). The concert culminated with the best display of the entire night: “Young Forever” (2010). With phones and lighters in the air, Jay-Z serenaded humming fans and reminded them to appreciate youth. It was a fitting finale — the rapper even playfully interacted with individual attendees — and every part of this extended ending had the feeling of a perfect goodbye.

In 2003, “The Black Album” was supposed to be the last of Jay-Z’s albums, and it concluded with the ironically titled “My 1st Song.” On the track, he rapped, “Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first.” The music mogul stuck with that theme during his visit to Boston — delivering a late career performance with the same joy and hunger as that of a young musician. If Jay-Z finally does decide to end his music career to pursue his other lucrative endeavors, he will be remembered as extraordinary rapper with an unparalleled and lasting appeal.

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