Jay-Z at Rogers Arena, 12/11/17
From the moment the screens lit up with images of Jay-Z’s trademark visage burning away, the night was about killing the ego. Bearing it all through latest hits off his 4:44 album, Jay-Z set the tone with single “Kill Jay-Z,” stating “you can’t heal what you never reveal.”
And boy did he reveal.
“Can I talk to you tonight, Vancouver?” Jay holler-asked as if beseeching the good lord above to lend an ear. “Lotta [stuff] goin’ on in the world, [but] love always trumps hate–you hear me, Vancouver? Love always trumps hate.”
Dipping into his marriage with “Family Feud,” Jay-Z addressed the rumours of infidelity referenced on his wife Beyonce’s 2016 album Lemonade. Leaning on the mic stand, Jay-Z prefaced the song by saying “this is the most complicated song I ever written.” Referring to the now infamous ‘Becky,” Jay lamented the wrong turns he’d taken within the context of fatherhood. “Let me alone, Becky/A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich.”
Replacing the burning Jay-Zs with laughing Beyonce’s and shots of his daughter, Blue Ivy, the screens overhead painted a gorgeous picture of all the things worth losing in life, further driving home Jay’s state of mind as he got down on his hands and knees in “4:44” and laid bare all his faults. “Took for my child to be born, see through a woman’s eyes…took me too long for this song/I don’t deserve you.” Addressing the ego he hoped to leave behind, Jay-Z referred to the egotistical way he began his relationship with wife Beyonce. “‘Don’t embarrass me,’ instead of ‘be mine’/that was my proposal for us to go steady.”
Pretty raw. Pretty personal. But nothing’s all bad. As Jay put it, “there’s no such thing as darkness; there’s only absence of light…if you ever find yourself in a dark place, surround yourself with positive people who feel the light. You just gotta believe everything is for the greater good.”
And he brought the good. Keeping with the soul-baring revelations, we were reminded to “Smile” as he recounted the sad story of his mother’s closeted life. “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian…don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her. I just wanna see you smile through all the hate.”
Rounding the evening off with “Numb/Encore,” in a stunning tribute to his late friend Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, the smiles turned bittersweet as Rogers Arena erupted with thousands of cell phone lights held in homage to Chester and all the struggling people of the world. Reminding us that “mental health is a real thing,” Jay-Z finished the evening off by imploring us to “check with your loved ones and make sure they’re good,” before stepping down off the stage, leaving Jay-Z behind to make his way through the crowd as Shawn Carter–just another person looking to chase away the darkness with a little light.