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Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, The House HOVA Built
As I was riding the subway to witness Jay-Z opening the freshly minted Barclays Center in Brooklyn, I immediately noticed the impact he’s made on the neighborhood even before I entered the arena. The name of the train station was changed from Atlantic Avenue to Barclays Center. Hova was the man who indirectly made this change. Very impressive.
The Bed-Stuy-born Jay-Z performed eight concerts from September 28-October 6 at New York City’s most high-tech venue. Barclays Centers holds 19,000 people for concerts, similar to the capacity of Madison Square Garden, however it feels larger than Manhattan’s landmark arena.
I attended the fourth night of Jay-Z’s Barclays Center Grand Opening Celebration on Monday October 1st. There was a frenzied atmosphere outside as excited fans holding the hottest tickets in town lined up to enter the brand-new, brightly lit entertainment center. Shortly after 9:30pm, the house lights began to dim and images of Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson and other Brooklyn greats flashed on the stage screen.
“Tonight is a celebration, a celebration of where I’m from,” Jigga told the crowd before launching into the hard-hitting “Where I’m From” from his 1997 album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Then he paid the tribute to another legend from Brooklyn, his high school friend the Notorious B.I.G., with Biggie’s first hit “Juicy.” Jay-Z told the crowd, “Sing loud so he can hear you in heaven.” He also held a moment of silence for B.I.G. who was shot to death in 1997.
Of course, a concert in New York’s largest borough would not complete with Jigga asking, “Is Brooklyn in the house?” The sold out house responded in unison with a deafening roar, “Yeaaaaaaah!!!!” The magnitude of the event was felt both by the audience and by the performer. “I’ve been on stages all around the world – nothing feels like tonight,” Jay told the raucous crowd.
He also revealed his first reaction to being involved in the Barclays Center. When the developer asked him if he would be interested in being part of the plan to build an arena in Brooklyn, his response was, “Hell yeah!”
“I want to thank you, Brooklyn, New York City, for making me the man I am today,” he said. “Like I said, everybody’s from Brooklyn tonight.” Hova proved he did not need an opening act or any guest appearances as he performed by himself with seven piece live band.
Brooklyn’s Finest MC tore through tracks “99 Problems” and “Empire State Of Mind.” His lyrics cut through knife-clean and the band’s bass lines kept their crucial bounce. Jay performed all his hits including “Big Pimpin’,” “Dead Presidents,“ “I Just Wanna Love U,” “Can I Live,” “Encore,” “What More Can I Say” and 1999’s party anthem, “Do It Again.”
Many of the songs are autobiographical, filled with verses that assert his hard and improbable climb from selling drugs to hosting fundraisers for President Obama. Beginning in poverty in the Marcy Projects living a “Hard Knock Life,” Jay-Z is now fulfilling his song, “We Run This Town.”
Shawn Carter has certainly come a long way.
(Reported by Yasuko Ito)