Jay Z brings Magna Carter World Tour home to Barclays Center

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Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

Jay Z brings his Magna Carter World Tour home to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Sunday night.

Nothing got in the way of the words at Jay Z’s Barclays Center concert on Sunday.

The show didn’t feature an innovative stage design, as on Drake’s recent tour. Neither did it include bejeweled masks, fancy dancers or a Jesus impersonator, a la Kanye West’s crazy “Yeesuz” show. Nor did it boast the presence of Justin Timberlake, who acted as a slick pop foil for the rapper during their co-headlining show at Yankee Stadium last summer.

The Brooklyn native didn't try to mimic Drake, Kanye West or Justin Timberlake's fancy acts, instead opting for a pure rap performance.

Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

The Brooklyn native didn’t try to mimic Drake, Kanye West or Justin Timberlake’s fancy acts, instead opting for a pure rap performance.

RELATED: JAY-Z ‘MAGNA CARTA HOLY GRAIL’ ALBUM REVIEW

For the first New York stop on Jay’s “Magna Carter” tour, he played to his on-going strength – as a pure rapper, capable of fast-witted, and nuanced, verbal derring-do.

The gig is Jay Z's first gig at the venue since he opened it in Sept. 2012.

Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

The gig is Jay Z’s first gig at the venue since he opened it in Sept. 2012.

It wasn’t just a smart move, it was probably a necessary one. At 44, the man born Shawn Carter doesn’t have the young buck status Drake currently commands, or the cutting-edge outrage perfected by Kanye in his latest project. That leaves him to cut the precise figure he assumed at Barclays – as both an elder statesmen and a broad-minded observer of the world, refracted through the language of hip-hop.

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The 'Clique' rapper performed hits from his new album 'Magna Carta Holy Grail' as well as his extensive back catalogue.

Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

The ‘Clique’ rapper performed hits from his new album ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ as well as his extensive back catalogue.

It’s a role Jay directly invokes on the album this tour supports: “Magna Carter Holy Grail.” The disc found the star moving more inward, questioning his faith in God, in stardom and even his performance as a father. It also saw him turning his attention more often to politics.

At Barclays – Jay’s first return to the venue after christening the new building 16 months ago – he performed a clutch of songs from the new CD, including “Picasso Baby” and “Tom Ford.” The songs haven’t struck the nerve of Jay’s most popular work. The disc’s elevated verbiage sometimes outperforms its music.

The 44-year-old addresses themes such as fatherhood, religion, politics and fame in his lyircs.

Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

The 44-year-old addresses themes such as fatherhood, religion, politics and fame in his lyircs.

RELATED: JAY Z INVITES 12-YEAR-OLD FAN ONSTAGE TO PERFORM DURING CONCERT

On Sunday, Jay evened those elements out by putting greater force behind new songs like “Holy Grail’ or “Crown.” He also drew on a wealth of older hits that ideally balance rapping and riffs. During songs like “On To the Next One” and “99 Problems,” Jay both offered familiar hooks and gamely alternated his flow, countering the beat with cagey new verbal inflections. Even the most overexposed hits benefited from sly changes in the flow. Jay also made good use of some songs from his brilliant collaboration album with Kanye, “Watch the Throne,” including the tightly coiled “No Church in The Wild.”

Jay Z freshened up some of his older hits by subtly changing their rhythm.

Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

Jay Z freshened up some of his older hits by subtly changing their rhythm.

Jay’s rock-inflected band, aided by Timbaland, kept the rhythms and the melodies in sync. But neither they, nor any other element, took attention from Jay’s essential power – as a supreme verbalist, sitting atop a long history of hits with pride.

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The tour supports Jay Z's twelfth album, 'Magna Carta Holy Grail,' which debuted at the number one on the Billboard 200.

Kevin P. Coughlin/New York Daily News

The tour supports Jay Z’s twelfth album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail,’ which debuted at the number one on the Billboard 200.

jfarber@nydailynews.com


Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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