Jay-Z plays the Garden tomorrow for the New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, but last night he played the Blender Theater — a semi-secret show for a crowd of 600 just announced on Tuesday — for sponsors MySpace Music and DJ Hero. Being a corporate affair, there was an evident divide. The eager fans who managed to finagle their way in were joyously smooshed up front, while the various execs and video-game-tester types were seated in the cordoned-off back section. To his credit, Jay had no problem tweaking his corporate overlords, calling out the Blackberry set repeatedly: “Homeboy sitting on the steps — this ain’t a poetry reading. You fucking my whole vibe up Some of ya’ll in the back acting bourgie. Yeah, I act bourgie, but I got a right to.”
Otherwise, it was another monster show from a guy whose live act is as reliably great as he thinks his recorded output still is. We know it was supposed to be a promo gig for Blueprint 3, but there were only a few nods in that direction — he ran through the singles, as well as snippets of “Venus vs. Mars” and “Hate” (half the crowd knew the words, and Jay responded with a sly “Oh, you got the bootleg?”) — but the set list was mostly greatest hits. Hearing throwback cuts like “Jigga My Nigga” next to something like “Show Me What You Got” is a reminder that Jay’s bravado isn’t quite as seemingly effortless as it once was, but for the most part the ride through his back catalog — “Heart of the City,” “U Don’t Know,” “PSA,” etc. — was a smooth and enjoyable one.
Late in the set, Jay let us know that “They told me to do 45 minutes. But I think I’m gonna do an hour and 15.” Then a fire alarm cut off the mikes (luckily this happened during special guest Memphis Bleek’s one full verse of the night). Eventually they came back, and Jay finished things off with sterling versions of “Hard Knock Life” and “Encore.” Tickets for tomorrow night, we’re sad to report, are sold out.