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Friday, June 8, 2012

watching the throne

Disclaimer:(saw this on a really funny post and had to add one) due to the nature of the subject matter there will be heavy usage of words that some(including me at some points in my life) find offensive and unpalatable 

Disclaimer 2: this post includes video content taken from a ten megapixel camera in the hands of a man whose arms were flailing so wildly it looks like an earthquake. However they give an accurate feeling of the events described herein.

That being said;

On the 28th of May Jay-Z and Kanye West brought their watch the throne tour to Oslo. The tickets had been booked  four months in advance and I had been waiting for this day for a long time. It was also the last night I would be in Oslo.

The concert was being held in a former airport, the Telenor arena, the only place in Oslo capable of holding the 20,000 revellers who would show up. It was slated to start at 9 and by 830 the crowds had already done their pre-concert bladder clearings,  bought their pre-concert drinks,   rolled their pre-concert joints.

This was my first real concert and I was about to learn a lot of things in quick succession:
1. Never dress well for a concert. You don’t need a shirt, or a sweater wear your oldest t-shirt soon you will be dripping with sweat dropping it all  over.
2. Never try to pick up girls before the concert, as soon as it starts everyone forgets everyone else till it’s all over. 
3.Your spectacles will get knocked off your face resulting in a mad search through a clearing that you have made in the middle of that frenzied crowd to find them.

At exactly 9 pm they came on stage and began with no preamble, no warning just two pulpits. One in the middle of the crowd one at the far end rising simultaneously as they began with HAM. The inside of the arena was dark but for the light  that came from these pillars that were being raised as if to heaven. Two prophets on them speaking the universal language of music.. The crowds were thick with life, energy and excitement.

Am not a good judge of this but I think the strength of a performance can be calculated by how long it takes for the cameras to stop snapping. As soon as they came on stage I took out my camera and began taking picture after poor quality picture. The focus was blurry, the zoom wasn’t working, the flash was ash and the quality unbearable. And soon I gave up on this. It seemed everyone after a few minutes forgot to hold their cameras in their hands as they danced to the music-

Here’s the thing about real performances, the guys on stage sweat. They sweat and sweat their asses off. I could see Kanye come on stage time after time and after a few minutes his face would be overrun with water. He was screaming the loudest, jumping the highest, enjoying more than he had a right to for something he got paid to do. Jay z didn’t really seem to break a sweat, he gave an engrossing performance, connected with the crowd and during Kanye’s solo performances I would actually miss him and wonder where he was. The best thing about the concert was their interactions with each other. This video has a perfect example of this play off.

Kanye talking about how he would watch jay’s big pimpin when he was younger and then promise  himself he would do the same when he made it but  you know what happened when he tried it for himself;

She take my money when am in need.... yer she a gold digger

Loudest part of this song “when he get on he leave your ass for a white girl”(not too many black girls at the Oslo show)

The difference in quality between the verses in the video tells its own story too. You see I use this shitty camera and whenever a song wasn’t been sung along to by more than 50% of the people there I could actually hear the sound playback when i watched the videos. but when most of the people knew the song there was always  this random beat banging in the back, blaring loud and long making sure the audio is as bad as the shaking visuals accompanying it. In that particular video you can hear almost jay’s entire rap and almost none of Kanye’s. And this also explains why I had so much time to miss jay z. in Europe Kanye is the more popular of the two. The music he makes can just appeal to a wider audience than the kind jay makes. You don’t have to like rap to like Kanye and you don’t have to study it to be able to sing along to his songs. Neither of these statements can be said about jay z.

 And they recognised this. They sat down somewhere and they changed the performance schedule to reflect this, to give yay more time on stage than the elder, more experienced half  of the duo. The student delivering more of the lesson that his master does and I couldn’t imagine what it took to do that. I think to make it in the music business a healthy ego is necessary. All your life you will be told that you ain’t shit and the only way you can believe you are is to believe it completely and from the bottom of your heart. But now here he was giving way to someone else.  Well, the tide goes on and that that flows soon must ebb.

During the performance of jigga what, jigga who? Jay(after watching them for a while  you feel on first name basis for some reason) split the crowd in two. “you guys say jigga what, you guys say jigga who.” And I felt like I had to win this contest. I had to gain his approval by being the person who said this loudest. Our side had to! I can’t describe whey there was so much adrenaline and why I felt so good when he finally said “I like this side better.”

Then Kanye made us lonely with his performance for the assholes(here's a toast to the douchebags). He took his autotuned tracks and turned them into the most soulful love songs I had heard in a long long time. “if you got someone you love you better hold them real tight. Everyone has times they feel like they need someone by their side and guys can admit this much easier than girls. That night in that concert, at that moment, in the thrall of the performance of that song I really did. And to be honest it looked like everyone else did too. Then he sang heartless and we belted out our resentment.

After making us jump up and down for some sets they did us and them a favour and let us chill as they performed the song they had done for their unborn sons. You can’t run all the time at that level of adrenaline otherwise your heart gives way and they had been touring long enough that they knew when to stop and breathe for a while. Give the crowd time to get back to them with a quiet listening.

With that many people you get amazingly thankful for the fact that there are those huge screens that you can focus on because you can’t see  the performers all the time and during that time, in the middle of the concert all you want to do is keep your eye fixed on the people singing. Everyone feels connected, you jump around ,you scream. Someone begins to smoke a cigarette and the waft of weed comes your way. It washes over you and you realise the immunity that this place gives you. The anonymity of being in the middle of so many people produces an amazing sense of power. That’s probably the most public smoking of marijuana I have ever witnessed and at the same time the safest. Nothing could have touched this guy, literally nothing. He could blow those trees all day, blow three more and he would never have any problem. The police could not break through that crowd, the security wouldn’t and would they want to? With all the fellow feeling flying through the atmosphere at that moment something mean could have erupted on a party pooper.

Sometimes am bothered by the question of what to do if you have talent. If you have a voice that people listen to and  have influence over them. I feel like it’s your duty to use that to make a change in the world and try and  make it a better place. To try to make it more in your image. That’s what human beings do and rappers are accused of having no social conscience at all. In the middle of the concert they both quieted down and watched the screen as the quiet and joyful strains of what a wonderful life played. On the screen there were scenes of things that were not a wonderful life. Scenes of Katrina, scenes of racism, scenes of civil unrest and most unsettling this video of a KKK gathering. The camera man focuses on this little girl in her KKK hat and she’s young, she’s innocent and the camera just comes closer and closer to focus on her and her little face that has no idea what to do but accept the hate that has been put on her by her family, her culture, her country , her time.

They followed this up with a performance of no church in the wild. A song with one of the most haunting, deepest choruses I have ever listened to, a question of power is played and replayed, taken to absurd limits, making the point that those at the top don’t care about those at the bottom and that those at the bottom may be better off realising this and paying them in kind.

“human being to a mob?what’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god? What’s a god to a non-believer
That don’t believe in anything”

 The only song that I ever heard quote one of Socrates’ dialogues quoted while maintaining its integrity. 

"is pious pious cos God loves pious?/ Socrates asked whose bias do y'all seek"

Oh then the question of whether the white people at the concert would say the word nigga? Yer of course... Kanye performs his song all of the lights. He gets to the line “MJ gone/ that nigga dead

“ok, ok, stop the music when I say MJ dead I want every mutherfucker in here all 20,000 of you to say that nigga dead. its our once chance to get away with it go again.”

So all the ones waiting for explicit permission before they could say the word it got it handed to them.

A little over 2 hours after they began they performed the centrepiece of the show. The song that the throne seems known for more than any other: Niggas in Paris. And they were right to save it to the end. The song began and everyone began to shout out as loud as they could. The sound was deafening.

 Nothing could be heard as they belted out line after line of the song and all I listened for was whether they would say niggas in Paris or niggas in Oslo. They said Paris and I was disappointed. The only fault I could find with the performance was this, how could they be so rigid and not change that one lyric. Imagine what it would mean to us. And also I needed an encore. It looked over, really over.

They had got us to throw our diamonds in the sky and begin to rhythmically move our hands back and forth and forth and back. I don’t really believe the illuminati stories but I could see how one could. That was as spiritual a place as I have been in a long time. It was like we had all taken a communal drug.

 After the last song a soothing
diamonds in the sky till we die
was sang. And nearly everyone made the diamond sign and began to move their hands slowly, ever so slowly. The lights were turned down until all we could see was the vague outline of a pyramid on the screen. Then it was dark and noone was moving. We didn’t want to leave. We began to chant for an encore. I wasn’t sure it would work and they let us think it might not which might be the best part of an encore. You have to come on just when the spirits are breaking, just when everyone is about to leave. And out of the darkness jay z’s voice rang out.

“jay aint ready to go home! and yay ain’t ready to go home! and they ain’t ready to go home! so there’s only one thing we can do.”

we gon schedule one song and one song only.
And just like that new life was breathed into the crowd as they performed niggas in Oslo this time. I listened and they changed the lyric.
“if you’d been through what I’d been through you’d be in Oslo getting fucked up too”
“I got my niggas in Oslo and they going gorillas.”
And the song ended and jay z said “again!”
Niggas in Paris.
One more time-Oslo
At the end of this one they looked done. We were too. They had wrung it all out of us, all the energy and we just stood there swaying from side to side. Ready to go. At the word gorillas the cameras pulled up on their faces and they looked angry. They looked finished. It was that look of I gave you all I could. I gave you myself and then more, and more you still want. And now we were ready to go home, except…

“one song and one song only.”

And when it ended we became spiritual again.

“diamonds in the sky till we die.” Just providing fodder for all those people who say they are occult. The lights dying, the voices rising, the hands swaying, the devotion of the fans. A spell had been cast and it was magic.

*When performing the show in Paris they sang that last song 11 times. For some reason while in concert you don't get tired of hearing it.


  1. I've never been to a concert, at least one of that magnitude!

    I'm not much of a rap listener but of course everyone knows Jay Z and Kanye West. Let me catch up on these new (to me) songs!

    Where to next, wayward foe? I loved reading your Europe experiences.

    1. this was my first and they did not disappoint, am not sure where next(well apart from back home) and the euro tour has only 2 weeks of life left in it