Powerhouses unite on stage for Monster Jam
In vintage fashion, JAM'N 94.5's annual concert blowout sported no-shows and surprises. Fabolous didn't make it. But Jay-Z did, turning up, appropriately enough, during the climax of Kanye West's "Big Brother." The place erupted, and the pair of powerhouses teamed up on a double-strength performance of "Encore," as well as a dark, driving number nobody knew but everybody seemed to love, perhaps from Jay-Z's soundtrack for the upcoming film "American Gangster."
West hardly needed his mentor's star turn to dominate the proceedings, though, just as he (and his all-female chamber orchestra) hardly belonged in a line-up where constant refrains of "Where's my lovely ladies?" and "Boston, make some noise!" were the unifying theme. Without gimmicks, poses, or a posse, West turned the stage to a pulpit, careening through a hits-saturated set as notable for ideological gravitas as clever beats. Positivity was on tap for "Touch the Sky," and the urgency that emerged during "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" deepened as the political turned personal on "Jesus Walks."
West is cocky, but he earned his egotism with a compact, intense set that was short on guns and long on brains. He marveled during a poetic spoken-word passage that such unfashionable pursuits had brought him fame at all, and then revealed the secret of his success in a succession of uniquely smart, artful songs: "All Falls Down," "Gold Digger," "Good Life" (T-Pain came out to contribute his part to the buoyant anthem), and "Stronger," which closed the relentlessly impressive set on a euphoric note.
A supremely self-possessed Li'l Wayne took West's scheduled headlining slot. (Did Kanye want to catch a ride on Jay-Z's plane?) He turned the tempos down, the subject dirty, and the sounds more conventionally stylish before the venue turned on the house lights at the stroke of 11:30. Visibly startled, Li'l Wayne dropped his microphone and stalked off as the audience booed.
Earlier in the evening, Akon worked a few songs into his frankly riveting strip routine, among them "Don't Matter" and "I Wanna Love You," paeans to strippers. The Senegalese star can deliver a smooth, clean flow whether he's singing or rapping, unlike T-Pain, whose charms are rougher but just as engaging. "I don't like people leaving the T-Pain party unsatisfied," he said, and worked hard toward his goal.
Newcomer MIMS may have scored the lowly opening slot, but the New York rapper's hit happens to be Big Papi's favorite, and MIMS endeared himself to the Boston crowd when he graciously dedicated "This Is Why I'm Hot" to the Red Sox. R&B singer J. Holiday accomplished the same using a different tack: falling to his knees to croon the slow jam "Bed" in a sweet falsetto.