Jay Z live at Hackney Weekend
- By Jack Preston -
- Jun 25, 2012
I will see hundreds of performances at festivals throughout the course of this summer. I will see collections of very talented musicians perform outstanding material in some breath-taking locations, however I’m already certain that nothing will come close to the jaw-dropping performance given by Jay Z at Hackney Marshes this weekend. There’s no such thing as a perfect set – but it doesn’t come much closer than this.
The site for this year’s BBC musical spectacular was, in truth, rather grim. A lack of space, or perhaps a lack of forward planning, resulted in six tightly-housed stages blighting one another with noise pollution. Fine performances throughout the day, from the likes of Jack White and The Maccabees, were offset by woeful showings from global superstars such as Nicki Minaj and Kasabian. Thankfully though, none of this mattered as the lights dimmed on the marshes around sunset – leaving only the moon and Jay Z’s unmistakable silhouette at the back of the stage visible.
As his being morphed into two, and the realisation that Rihanna had joined her mentor on stage to open proceedings became apparent, delirium in the crowd quickly became established as the norm. A faultless rendition of ‘Run This Town’, the highlight of which being Rihanna’s badass welding goggles, set the tone for a breakneck tour of everything which makes Jay Z one of the best musicians of his generation.
Favourite’s from ‘The Black Album’, ‘Hard Knock Life’, ‘The Blueprint’ (1 and 3), ‘American Gangster’ and ‘Life and Times of S. Carter’ populated a career-spanning set. It’s only when hearing the tracks played so tightly together, many of which had found themselves slimmed down, that you are able to appreciate the depth and variation of the material which he has produced.
Infectious beats such as ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ and ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’ are an impossibility not to move to, while lyrical masterpieces like ’99 Problems’ and ‘Jigga What, Jigga Who’ demonstrate the depth of writing ability the self-proclaimed ‘best rapper alive’ possesses.
A mid-set appearance from M.I.A., who battled through microphone glitches to perform ‘Paper Planes’ and recent single ‘Bad Girl’, proved short respite as Jigga soon returned to finish an exhilarating set with an extended ‘Empire State of Mind’.
However the best was yet to come, with the unveiling of the stars and stripes alerting the crowd to the eminent arrival of ‘Watch The Throne’ collaborator Kanye West. The pair, having only finished their world tour the night before in Manchester, bounced onto the stage for a five song encore featuring material from their joint album.
Refreshingly, the pair do without hype-men – Jay Z being confident enough to share the stage with only himself throughout the majority of his headline performance. You get the impression that were they to change their mind, finding someone quick enough to keep up with them would be the first stumbling block.
‘Otis’, ‘Gotta Have It’, Who Gon Stop Me’, ‘No Church In The Wild’ and ‘Lift Off’ were torn through as the two of them battled against the clock to fit in their finest. The levels of snarling attitude, bravado and lyrical appreciation between the pair is a joy to watch unfold.
As is customary, the night ended with the fantastically chaotic ‘Niggas In Paris’. The set closer, which finds itself constantly ‘re-loaded’ as the speed and noise levels are ratcheted up, led to unprecedented levels of delirium on the marshes. As television cameras zoomed in, even Beyoncé was visibly losing her shit in the midst of a mosh pit – this, you feel, is not a regular occurrence.
The BBC are unlikely to make a finer investment, finding a more worthy location than Hackney and a better headliner than Jay Z for next year will simply be an impossibility.