What can be said about Jay-Z’s ongoing run of eight sold-out concerts at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn that hasn’t already been shared, Tweeted, Tumbled, Instagrammed, Pinterested, or discussed using old-fashioned words? Plenty. After taking in the third show Sunday night from the fantastic D’USSE Cognac VIP riser on the main floor, I think there’s no limit to the discussion of the artist, the arena, the ability to get away with smoking weed in said arena, and the way we experience live music today. So here are a few observations, in no particular order.
I liked that D’USSE, and so did everybody else. D’USSE is a VSOP cognac that’s tasty neat or in cocktails like the Code, of which I had more than one. There was a special D’USSE bar in the VIP area and people were enjoying the heck out of their cocktails. The bottle is quite handsome too. You can get one for about $45 at your favorite liquor store. You do have a favorite liquor store, don’t you?
The Barclays Center is a very nice venue to see a show. At a capacity of just over 18,000, it’s big but doesn’t seem overwhelming. We had a nice place to see the show on the D’USSE riser, of course, but it looked like most of the sight lines were pretty decent. The nosebleed seats, however, are way up there. The concessions are great, and I enjoyed a brisket sandwich from Fatty ‘Cue that cost about $13, which is not ridiculous, considering the venue.
People who work at the Barclays Center are much friendlier than I expected them to be. Even the security people told us “Welcome to the Barclays Center, have a great night.” I’m used to going to Madison Square Garden, where it feels like the security staff is ready to give you the beatdown of a lifetime if you accidentally walk on the wrong side of the rope or something, so it’s nice to not be treated like a hooligan before I actually start acting like one.
Jay-Z rivals Marty Markowitz as a booster of the borough of Brooklyn. Every other sentence was something along the lines of “Is Brooklyn in the house?” Yes, it is, Jay. I live in Park Slope, just down the street. Look, I know that Brooklyn’s his thing and he’s understandably proud of it, but we’re getting close to saturation here. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 15 years, but I don’t proselytize about it so much anymore. It’s great, I LOVE Brooklyn, but there are other nice places to live too. I digress.
Jay-Z reads The New York Times. On Saturday there was an article in the Times about Friday’s night’s concert. Among its praise of the minimalist aesthetic was a reference to Jay-Z’s ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets: “Jay-Z owns one-fifteenth of 1 percent of the Nets.” That struck me as interesting, since I was under the impression that he owned a much larger percentage of the team. On stage, Jay-Z said “I don’t know where the Times got that 1/15th of one percent, that’s news to me, but it’s not all about that anyway.” So be careful, Times writers. Jay-Z is paying attention.
Jay-Z is a dad who was out on a school night, just like me. This may be why he started the show at a few minutes after 9 and finished promptly at 11pm, presumably to head home and go to bed in case Blue Ivy gets up overnight and needs some bouncing. I can totally relate and appreciate being able to get home by midnight. I wonder what time he actually made it to bed. Did he watch TV first, like I did? And did he regret it the next morning, like I did?
Jay-Z is great live. This much should be obvious, but he’s a lot of fun to watch, and I appreciated his spartan approach to performing. There was no opening act. No "special guests" joined him onstage. He did have a backup band, but otherwise he was up there all alone. He knows what he’s doing and ran through all of his big hits, from “Hard Knock Life” to “Empire State of Mind.” Everybody was dancing, or at least swaying and bouncing the way people do at concerts.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many concerts in a row Jay-Z could perform until they’re not sold out anymore. He’s doing eight nights at Barclays, and they’re all sold out. Eight nights! Even with a nice dressing room and plenty of water, that’s serious labor. He’s working hard, and that’s cool. But if he kept on playing every night, charging the same ticket prices, eventually his shows would stop selling out. At which number show would that happen? I’ll take a stab and say show #14 would have a few empty seats. What do you think?
There was some weed, but not too much. The Barclays Center is a new arena with all kinds of security, including metal detectors and lots of cops, but a Jay-Z show is a Jay-Z show. I didn’t even catch a whiff of anything until the lights went down and he took the stage. Once he did, though, a few clouds rose up and the unmistakable aroma of sticky icky wafted around, but I never actually witnessed anybody smoking. I stuck to the D’USSE.
Possibly related to the above, lighters are out, phones are in. In my day, sonny, to show your appreciation for a live band, you’d hold up your Bic cigarette lighter when the lights went down. Today everybody turns on their phones. They’re just as pretty as lighter flames, with less of a fire risk. I wonder what the cumulative energy usage is, though.
The powers that be have given up trying to stop people from recording shows like this. Everybody had their smart phones– and in some cases, iPads—up and taking video, presumably to post on Facebook and Twitter. I’m pretty sure nobody had express written consent to do so, but there’s not nearly enough security to stop people. More to the point, there’s no substitute for seeing a Jay-Z show live, so who cares if a couple of bouncy, grainy video clips get shared on the internet? Jay-Z’s the King of Brooklyn. He’ll be alright.