Where were you last night? If you weren’t at the Mullins Center, you missed a show your friends will be talking about for years and years to come.
When tickets went on sale to the general public for last night’s Jay-Z concert, uninformed UMass students found, to their dismay, that there were no student priced tickets available. Live Nation released an online password that allowed anyone who possessed it to go on their website and purchase tickets at the discounted “student” prices. Almost immediately after the student presale began, it ended and online ticket brokers had jumped all over the profit-guaranteeing price.
Tickets were selling for more than $500 a piece, and it seemed pretty clear that UMass students weren’t going to be able to even afford to see their idol in their home arena. Regular seats were still available, but to get them, it cost top dollar. Tickets were actually available today on ticketmaster.com, even though there were none this past week. Junior Maddy Lasky, who was outwardly disappointed by the “secret student password” system, found tickets today on ticketmaster.com and paid $60 each after fees.
A few scattered scalpers meandered around the parking lots looking for drunk and desperate students to rip off, but regardless, the gathering turned out to be student-heavy. In filed guys donning polo shirts, jerseys, and/or sideways, flat-brimmed hats along with scantily clad young women in North Face jackets as well as a solid mix of plain tees and button-ups completing what was a diverse crowd, to say the least.
J.Cole and Wale opened the show as the majority of the crowd was still piling in. A thick fog of marijuana smoke filled the rafters of the Mullins as some other crowd members popped pills.
The masses erupted when N.E.R.D took the stage led by front-man Pharrell Williams with a full instrumental band behind him. They prepared the crowd for the big main act and performed their huge hits including “Rock Star,” “She Wants to Move” and even “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Their tight rhythms and catchy tracks induced a sea of dancing and partying like a packed house party at its peak before the cops roll up.
Williams invited all the “good lookin’ young ladies” to the front and brought about five up on the stage. Security, with their hands full already, fought back hoards of emotional girls who pushed and shoved through the aisles for a chance to live their wildest fantasies in front of the packed house. After calling up some “thick girls,” he grinded up on them and made sure everyone recognized that they knew how to move just as well as anyone.
The rap/rock band made a lot of new fans and satisfied old ones with their electric and energetic set.
A roaring drum roll into the song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys brought all to their feet as a 10 minute countdown appeared on the screens on each side of the stage. As someone was thrown out with three minutes to go, the mass of partiers went crazy in a cheer for the ejected fan. Whatever he was doing must have been pretty terrible to catch security’s attention considering the abundant rowdiness and drug use.
The Beatles’ “Live and Let Die” blasted through the massive speakers as the clock wound down, the lights dimmed and the fans passionately chanted “HOVA! HOVA! HOVA!”
From a cloud of smoke in a spotlight, the King of New York, Jay-Z, emerged like a godly being to the stage and began a song of his latest album, “The Blueprint III,” “Run This Town.”
The back screen of the stage was built to resemble the New York City skyline which fit the performance well and was utilized effectively.
“Death to Autotune” and a bass-heavy “U Don’t Know” set-up the Jigga Man to awaken his following with “99 Problems,” “Show Me What You Got,” and “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).”
The hits were great and got everyone bumping up and down out of their seats, but as he did the rest of the night as well, they were far too short. Unfortunately, some of his big songs such as “99 Problems” and later on “Dirt Off You Shoulder” seemed much shorter than the studio versions the crowd would have been familiar with.
Slowing it down a bit, Jay-Z showed his talent as a performer and a rapper is legitimate with some breathtaking rap solos in “Jigga What, Jigga Who.”
He broke right into “Public Service Announcement” and simultaneously shot a bolt of lightning into the audience to an eruption of hands making the famous diamond symbol associated with Hova.
“Ain’t No Love (In the Heart of the City)” and a good rendition of “Already Home” from the “Blueprint III” slowed down the pace of the show, and while “Empire State of Mind” drew a lot of excitement, there were a lot of still bodies and little dancing.
The mood in this mini-lull created a mix of light singing, while people took sitting breaks, not paying attention.
Before bringing Pharrell back out to sing “So Ambitious,” Jay-Z addressed the sea of undergrads and very genuinely said, “Don’t let nobody block you from your dreams” repeatedly.
Brining the opening star back out resuscitated some, but it was “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” that shot life back into everyone. He then took a long break, and returned sporting a New York Yankees hat and performed “Thank You” as fireworks erupted against the skyline screen behind him.
He explained that his last album, “The Blueprint III” gave him the most number one albums in history surpassing Elvis Presley. He then said with a huge smile on his face, “Nothing against Elvis, but he has officially left the building.”
“Can I get a…” brought everyone back to the 90s and pumped everyone up for a quick string of his biggest hits. He transitioned right into “Big Pimpin’” and stopped to tell the crowd, “You can’t treat this like a regular song, this is ‘Big Pimpin!’” After counting down with the crowd from 10, he possessed the crowd, releasing their inner ZooMass egos officially making the concert a party.
He quickly switched to “Hard Knock Life” and kept the singing and dancing bursting into the aisles and up on the seats.
While he did not have a traditional encore, he took a long break after a stellar version of his song “Encore” to individually point out fans he saw from each section. It was interesting at first, but got old really quick.
Finally, Jay-Z ended his set with “Forever Young,” and said, “Every time I take the stage, I don’t take it for granted.”
Despite short cuts of his most popular songs and a controversial ticket sale, the show will certainly prove to be unforgettable for all those who were able to find tickets.
And even though some people, like Lasky, had to wait ‘til today and/or had to pay a highly inflated price to get in, she said, “I know I spent way too much money on these tickets, but it was totally worth it.”
Justin Gagnon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.