Jay-Z took the stage at Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Barclays Center at 11:59pm on New Year's Eve Monday night and rang in 2013 with Coldplay's Chris Martin singing along to "Auld Lang Syne." The singer and the rapper hugged, and then the stage was Jay's. In a double-bill show that took place half in one year and half in another, Coldplay -- who had the night's first set -- had been a riot of color and movement all over the arena, while Jay, in a dark tux, stood mostly alone on stage putting a laser focus on his rapid-fire rhymes.
Fans packed in to the arena well before Coldplay took the stage just before 10pm (celebs including Christina Aguilera and One Direction's Harry Styles were also in the house Monday night). Soon Barclays was alight with the synchronized blinking of the multi-colored lights on the bracelets each concertgoer had been given upon entering. Chris Martin, here parked at a piano, there vaulting around the stage, was a blur of energy as the band's 15-song set launched whole-crowd sing-a-longs ("The Scientist," "Paradise"), confetti canons, and even a herd of world-map beach balls unleashed on the audience. For "Princess of China," Rihanna appeared only as a multi-armed image on the screens throughout the space, her part of the duet a mere recording. "Viva La Vida" and "Yellow," meanwhile, won over revelers with just the music itself.
Early on, Martin asked the crowd to "please have a good time," and "cherish the people you love." Nearing the end of the 80-minute set, during which Martin name checked Jay-Z a handful of times, the band appeared suddenly on a platform in the middle of the 100 level sections to sing the ballad "Us Against The World," for the times when you and yours "feel like you can take on anything." The group's trek through the fan-filled floor all the way back to the mainstage elicited growing cheers that only increased when they launched into "Clocks," it's circular piano part and Martin's cooing "oohs" drowned out by the audience. But the applause and whistles and yells of approval reached a crescendo when Jay-Z, casual in a white t-shirt, took the stage to join Coldplay on "Lost."
DJ Cassidy spun old school jams from Michael Jackson to Journey as the crew converted Coldplay's Technicolor graffiti'd backdrop into Jay-Z's simple, black stage and the clock ticked so close to midnight, the ringing in of the new year was almost an anti-climax. But at literally the last moment, Jay appeared in his dapper suit and counted down the last seconds to 2013.
But with 2012 over, Jay was just getting started as he rolled into a non-stop 25-song set that opened with "Run This Town."
"I don't know how I'm going to top 2012," Jay said, looking like he wasn't worried a bit and biting into "On to the Next One" as arms waved and yet another cheer went up. As "Hovi Baby," "Feelin' It," "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It To Me)," and especially "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" sped by, Jay rapped without seeming to take a breath, to barely stop, and making it all look easy, inspiring applause for every break when the music stopped and it was just his voice issuing a torrent of rhymes filling the whole arena alone.
"I want to thank you. You could have been anywhere in the world tonight. but you're here in the ... Barclays Center," he said. The native New Yorker is proudly a part owner of the venue's home team, the Brooklyn Nets.
The only hint of his exertion was the sweat streaming down his face, but otherwise Hova held sway over the crowd, calling for waiving arms here, shouts there, bringing us up for "Big Pimpin'" before taking it down to quiet a serious moment. "I'm from Brooklyn, just thought I'd remind you we're going to rule the world in 2013. And in order to do that don't let anybody hold you back or put their anxieties or fears on you." And with that he had the whole crowd give the finger to the haters. He brought the mood all the way back up to deafening as he and everyone else boomed into "99 Problems," while he visited the front rows in style to give those fans a New Year's taste of his champagne, saying, "I want you to feel how I feel."
His set wasn't even half over. Over two dozen songs crammed into an hour and a half, as he continued with Rick Ross' "3 Kings," "Money Ain't a Thang" (which he originally did with Jermaine Dupri), G.O.O.D. Music's "Clique" and his own "Can I Get A& " and "La La La (Excuse Me Again)."
Coldplay's Chris Martin joined Jay for a third time for "Heart of The City," Martin's tenor providing counterpoint to Hova's baritone rhymes. Chants of "Hova, Hova" erupted from the crowd unbidden as Jay-Z got to the "I came, I saw, I conquered" line from "Encore." Afterward, he hinted that New Year's Eve live in Brooklyn could become a tradition for him. "Our goal is to do this every year," he said. "2014, you gonna rock with us?"
With so many music celebs in town for the holidays and such a long tradition of guest spots at Jay-Z's shows, it was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night held no unannounced performers. Other than singer Bridget Kelly, who did the hook on a couple of tunes including Alicia Keys' half of the set-ending "Empire State of Mind," and the walk-on by Chris Martin, the spotlight was on Jay-Z during his set. That seemed to suit every ticketholder just fine.
"I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else to ring in 2013," Jay said as the clock ticked toward 1:30am, Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place" played in the background, and the show came to a close. "2012 was a major year for me, it was the birth of my beautiful daughter Blue, it was the birth of this building. Tonight I feel like I'm in the right place. I wish you the best 2013 possible. Peace and love."
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