Jay-Z : London Wembley Arena

Jay-Z : London Wembley Arena

...there's a certain whiff of regret that accompanies the mass hysteria...

It is, of course, richly ironic that Jay Z should finally bring his full stage show to Europe just as he announces his retirement. Not that this full stage show differs greatly from his club performance in Hammersmith a year ago. There are fireworks, a set that looks like a bar nobody would want to visit and Jay has called in his ROC “family” – label partner Damon Dash, and proteges Beenie Siegle and Memphis Bleek – to dance with him.

But the meat of the event remains the same. It’s Jay Z relating his brilliant rhymes over a backing tape. And actually, that’s enough – even for a stadium show. As has been noted often enough before, nobody does it quite like the Jigga does it. He has been for the past seven years the most poetic documenter of ghetto hustling and high-rolling, and nobody, not even Eminem or Nas, can live with his skill for rhyming.

So the best moment of this evening isn’t when Jay ropes some girls from the audience up onstage to dance during ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’. Or when there’s an explosion of fire to introduce ‘Big Pimping’. Or even the whole audience singing every word to every song (the twenty odd po-faced journos present excepted, naturally).

The best part of the night occurs early on, during ‘It Was All A Dream’, when the music drops out leaving Jay to rap unaccompanied for a couple of minutes. Normally, a cavernous shed such as the Arena constantly hums to the chatter and shuffle of those present but as Jay interprets a conversation he dreamt he had with the late Notorious BIG the venue is in rapt silence. It is an astonishing feat and sets the tone for the show.

Chances are he won’t play again here before he wraps up his musical career next Christmas to make bad movies instead, so there’s a certain whiff of regret that accompanies the mass hysteria at the show’s close. Does he really want to be the new LL Cool J instead of Jay Z? Following in footsteps has never been his bag.

Ted Kessler