As the endless array of houselights faded to black, 15,000 fans were lit up with echoing screams.
Their frenetic shouts welcomed the silhouette of a figure emerging from center stage, making up half of the headlining duo. Illuminated by a sea of cell phone screens and camera flashes, the spotlights ignited on rap superstars Kanye West and Jay-Z, launching the D.C. stop of their “Watch the Throne” tour.
The rhyming twosome opened up the Thursday night show with their fast-paced, beat-heavy single, “H.A.M.”
The star-packed concert, featuring a set list of over 30 songs, was performed on the Verizon Center’s monstrous main stage, as the theatrical overflow spilled out on to a smaller square stage. Lasers, JumboTron images and pyrotechnics enlivened the high-energy performance.
“D.C., y’all ready to party with ‘Watch the Throne’ tonight?” Jay-Z asked early in the show to an animated audience.
Jay-Z dove into his old-school rap vault to perform some of his crowd-favorite classics, including the 2003 hit “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and decade old jam “Izzo,” in addition to songs from his new album.
West, who sported black tights and a leather kilt for the majority of the show, also performed several of his newer chart-topping hits, like “Heartless” and “Stronger.”
Both superstar artists engaged the audience often throughout the performance, by calling out, “D.C., make some noise!” and “Put your hands up!”
In addition, Jay-Z and West frequently let the audience finish the lyrics a capella, an act that brought broad smiles to both rappers’ faces.
Live video of the performance was interlaced with visual montages on two prominent JumboTrons.
For West’s 2010 star-studded collaboration “Monster,” the screens projected vicious looking cats, bears and wolves. During the performance of the 2011 existential religious realization, “No Church in the Wild,” the projections evolved into scenes of baptisms, marching priests and the Ku Klux Klan.
West and Jay-Z had a humorous interaction during which West talked about being inspired by Jay-Z’s video for the player’s anthem “Big Pimpin,” released in 2000. The song itself was the most commercially successful hit off the Brooklyn native’s album, “Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter.”
The dialogue then evolved into the beginning of the 2005 money-obsessed track, “Gold Digger,” by West, and later, the 2004 track, “99 Problems,” by Jay-Z.
West also restarted his more recent song “All of the Lights” three times in a clearly rehearsed routine to turn all the stage lights on for the performance.
When the lights finally came on, a flashing backdrop of blinding spotlights and dazzling lazer effects illuminated fans in a glow of green, blue and yellow radiance.
As Kanye West, jumping and running erratically around the stage, screamed out “Bounce! Bounce!” the entire crowd danced and clapped along with the reverberations from “Niggas in Paris,” a single from West and Jay-Z’s 2011 “Watch the Throne” collaborative album.
After the multitalented rappers left the stage, the audience’s raving cries brought them back on stage.
“Oh we ain’t done. Where the hell did everyone go?” Jay-Z said.
After concluding with Jay-Z’s appropriately selected track, “Encore,” Kanye West saluted the audience as Jay-Z said, “D.C., thank you for a beautiful night. Get home safe so we can keep doing this shit every day.”