Bow down, Chicago

The kings, Jay-Z and Kanye West, are here

November 29, 2011|By Kyle Kramer, For RedEye

If Jay-Z and Kanye West didn't think their collaboration was an event, they wouldn't have called it "Watch the Throne." In terms of modesty, these guys exist somewhere between "none" and "LeBron James."

Of course, public response certainly has matched the project's self-satisfaction. Bloggers breathlessly dissected early singles "H.A.M." and "Otis"; a freaking New York planetarium housed the record's listening party; and the album's stunningly un-leaked release brought music fans together, at least on Twitter, for a day of collective listening.

So it's expected that the megastar rappers' joint tour (which stops Wednesday and Thursday at the United Center) has been selling out arenas, drawing celebrity fans from Young Jeezy to Leonardo DiCaprio and generating enthusiastic reviews. These superstars have 15—wait, make that 16, counting the new record—No. 1 albums between them, and it feels like ages since Chicago-raised Kanye was playing venues the size of Metro.

The tour also is sparking interest from casual onlookers baffled by the appeal of listening to two very wealthy, successful artists who make music about their wealth and success. "Watch the Throne" has drawn criticism for its depictions of luxury during an economic recession, but reviews of the album have generally been positive, and sales have exceeded a million copies. Its viral hit single, "[Friends] in Paris," is currently at the top of the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart and at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Not that the numbers matter at this point. Jay-Z and Kanye are big enough stars to do what they want and get away with it--even if what they want happens to be performing "[Friends] in Paris" seven times, as they did in Detroit last weekend. They can perform on giant glowing cubes, as they do on this tour, and not seem delusional. They can run through a set of 40 songs, as they will do Wednesday and Thursday night, and still leave out certain hits.

So while early reviews of the show and strong material from the album promise something great at the United Center, there's no doubt that whatever happens will be, at the very least, majorly eventful.


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