Heart of The City Tour Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 Toronto, ON

They came. They saw. They conquered. “From record sales to sold out concerts.” Truer words Jay-Z has never spit.

For three hours on a chilly April night, the Air Canada Centre transformed into a hotbed of Hip Hop for the King of Rap and the Queen of Hip Hop Soul as Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige brought their “Heart of the City Tour” to Toronto.

The pair came out together to perform Can’t Knock the Hustle off of Jay-Z’s debut album, “Reasonable Doubt”. Backed by a full band, the pair set the pace for the night, cool and classy.

Once the first song was out of the way, Jay left the stage and left Mary to control the crowd for the next hour. And she did so with ease, shuffling through All I Need, Reminisce and Real Love. Now, you may have also heard critics accuse Jay of “borrowing” one too many of Biggie’s lyrics in the past. Jay even addressed the critics on “The Black Album’s” What More Can I Say? “I say a B.I.G. verse I’m only biggin up my brother / Biggin’ up my borough.” So how fitting was it that Jay would run out from the back to spit B.I.G.’s classic verse on Real Love in honour of his fallen comrade, the late great Brooklyn legend.

But if there was any remaining doubt, Mary proved she could rock a stadium by herself and sang lead with a stadium of willing background singers to an emotional medley of No More Drama, Not Gon’ Cry and I’m Going Down. But not one to send her fans home with a box of tissues, Mary turned up the tempo and brought back the party vibe with the appropriately titled Enough Cryin’ and Be Without You.

While Mary set the stage beautifully with her solid 1-2 punch, Jay delivered the knockout punch and absolutely flattened the ACC. Leaving no time for the crowd to catch their breathe after Mary’s high-energy closer, the Chubb Rock-inspired Treat ’Em Right remix of Just Fine, Jay was greeted back on stage to a stadium full of diamond-shaped ROC signs in the air. Knowing exactly how to push the crowd’s buttons, Jay stared into the crowd and asked, “Is this T-Dot?” and jumped right into a barrage of “American Gangster” tracks (Say Hello, Hello Brooklyn, Roc Boys and I Know). Seemingly pleased with his own performance, Jay turned to the crowd and said, “Now let’s have some fun!” He then proceeded to cycle through some of his club-friendly bangers such as Give It To Me, Show Me What You Got and Beware of The Boys.

Unwilling to let the fans catch their breathe, Jay brought out Memphis Bleek, teased the crowd with the Takeover beat and then orchestrated a fireworks explosion as he jumped into the “Blueprint’s” high-octane You Don’t Know before delivering the Rock Remix of 99 Problems accompanied by 2 guitarists. After briefly welcoming back Mary to croon over Song Cry, Jay left the stage for a quick wardrobe change.

Back for more, Jay served up hit after hit... both old and new, climaxing with “The Black Album’s” Public Service Announcement. What more could the man possibly do, you ask? How about take over the turntables. Jay flexed his acting muscles and performed a little skit with his DJ. Asking her to “press this button” when he returned to the stage, Jay joked, “but not this oneā€¦ and definitely not this one” when he proceeded to “George Bush the button” himself and sent his older fans into a frenzy with Feelin’ It, followed in short order by snippets of Lucifer, Where I’m From, Money Ain’t a Thang, Hard Knock Life, Best of Me, Crazy in Love, Hello Brooklyn, Fiesta and Money Cash. Finally, Jay found the elusive button and returned centre-stage. After requesting the crowd to count down from 10, the mystery song turned out to be Big Pimpin’. Ironically, Jay performed Encore BEFORE exiting the stage and returning for, you guessed it, an encore. But this time he wasn’t alone. He was joined by Miss Mary, whom he turned to and said, “Okay Mary, I don’t think they’re ready to leave.” He was right. And to no one’s surprise, the final two numbers were perfect choices. MJB assisted on Jay’s Heart of The City and then the pair thanked the crowd by closing with their brand new Swizz Beatz-produced single, You’re All Welcome.

Thank you.
Toronto thanks you.