Live Review: A Cocksure Jay-Z Brings His Swagger to Key Arena

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Jay-Z performed at the Key Arena on Saturday, October 17, 2009.
Hard to believe, but a decade has passed since Jay-Z came to Seattle on the Hard Knock Life Tour. In the late '90s, the rapper sparked buzz as a leader in post Tupac and Biggie hip-hop. Today, he's a superstar with a net worth of over $150 million. He's also married to bootilicious Beyoncé. Yes, the past 10 years have been kind to Jay-Z.

The hip hop mogul took time to reflect on - and boast about - his achievements during his sold-out Seattle concert. "My album went no. 1 for the 11th time," he announced, referencing the September released record The Blueprint 3. "That puts me past Elvis." He grinned as the crowd roared its approval and admitted, "I just like saying that. I mean, I'm from Brooklyn--and I passed Elvis!"

The Key Arena show marked his first one back in the U.S. following several dates in Canada. Fans booed vehemently when he referenced the fact and a bemused Jay-Z asked, "What's wrong with Canada? I think it's nice."

Backed by a big band and new Roc Nation signee Bridget Kelley on vocals, he performed a 90-minute set that pulled from the new record and several of his earlier hits. Jay-Z initially rose from beneath the stage to deliver his current single "Run this Town," followed by "D.O.A. (Death Of Autotune)" - an appropriately named track sampling Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" that criticizes the state of mainstream hip hop.

Fans turned out to be well-versed in the new material, as was evidenced when the rapper tried to get tour opener Pharrell of N.E.R.D. to join him onstage for a rendition of "So Ambitious."

"Hold on--where's Pharrell at?" Jay-Z asked when his introduction of the artist was met without an appearance. Unfazed, he turned to the audience and asked, "Can you guys do the hook?" Without hesitation, fans responded, "Motivation to me, is them telling me what I could not be." A clearly pleased Jay-Z instructed the backstage crew: "Forget that shit then. We're good."

While fans responded well to new material, it was the rapper's earlier hits that elicited the biggest response. The evening's most popular segment was when Jay-Z performed anthems "Big Pimpin" and "Hard Knock Life" back to back. The audience enthusiastically rapped along during both numbers, prompting Jay-Z to praise them. "It sounds so beautiful, don't you agree?"

The fans roared their concurrence, just as one would expect at the concert of a performer who has just passed Elvis in no. 1 albums. And Jay-Z cemented that it was a mutual love affair by responding, "Don't tell them I said this, but you guys are louder than Canada."

 
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