TIDAL X Brooklyn 2017 At Barclay Center, Tuesday, October 17th, 2017, Reviewed
It was past one in the morning when Jay-Z reached the stage at the Barclay Center, headlining (more or less, natural Wonder Stevie was the final act) Tidal X’s third annual charity event, this year in support of the victims (is that the right word for a natural disaster?) of Hurricane Irma. I was home by then, leaving around midnight, after Chris Brown and before Jadakiss, some 35 sets of hip hop with a sprinkling of Latin American pop for taste, later. I polished off DJ Khaled, J Lo, Hov, and skipped Stevie till this morning. But I didn’t feel ripped off. Everybody I missed I knew what to expect and a lot of the people I did see I hadn’t seen before, even Chris Brown, who looked like a cross between a vicious elf, a bumble bee and Gene Kelly was new to me: a dream mover he danced like the scarecrow in Wizard Of Oz with a backstory of the worst sorts. I forgot he appeared on Omarion’s “Post To be,” and his elastic man bend and twirl was a pretty awesome thing. It’s really annoying because I don’t know about you but I would love to hate him. Hitting RiRi? What a piece of work.
On a night of more than a few highlights, he was a HIGHLIGHT. Who else? Willow Smith… I realize Will Smith’s daughter has every advantage on earth, yet she hasn’t used it to become a Hollywood brat, her first song was the addictive age appropriate “Whip My Hair” when she was 12, and her debut album was 2015’s (when she was 14 years of age) Ardipithecus, a serious and experimental decomposition of teen angst, of the first order. At Barclay’s she sat center stage with an acoustic guitar and came off like Lauryn Hill circa MTV Unplugged. She was both fragile and strong and immensely brave facing a huge audience with just a guitar.
On the other side of the strong women, money moving Cardi B finally hits a stage (or at least one where I was attending), and she can move all her stripper lessons on to a bigger stage, coming into play as she took her one hit “Bodak Yellow” and became the biggest star last night. The entire audience roared their approval and was still shouting her name long after she had left the stage. Speaking of one hits, Luis Fonsi opened the evening with a pretty great “Despacito”. Speaking of Reggaeton, Daddy Yankee got a lousy five minutes, and he killed it. In comparison, Fifth Harmony got 14 minutes and after “Work From Home” –there last three singles stiffed for good reason, they all sucked. They got more time then Yo Gotti, Joey Bada$$, and Vic Mensa combined. Joey and Vic were getting their r&b on but Yo Gotti stole the evening with the best rap. Not Belly, who came in second. And, no, not Jay-Z, who really hasn’t had much of a year. That awful “Kill Jay Z” has got to go, all that whining bitch “I nearly went Eric Benet “ makes me wanna thump him in the nose. Please, we expect more from the man who wrote the playa handbook: “She wanted, us to end cause I fucked her friends. She gave me one more chance and I fucked her again”. Jay-Z is a role, like James Bond is a role, it is a great role and he won’t play it for us. Now he is like Prince when Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness and wouldn’t sing “Head” or “Sister” any more. Jay-Z was terrible and guess what, so was J Lo, who transplanted one of her sets from her Vegas show lock, stock, and barrel, and got way too serious for her own good. Lin-Manuel Miranda introduced J Lo, repeating “don’t be fooled by the rocks that she’s got” till it became a mini-hook in the middle of an introduction.
Speaking of disappointing, they kept me (well, not me but…) waiting till 130 in the morning and all we got was a lousy 17 minutes of Stevie Wonder. They should have cut Fifth Harmony by ten minutes and handed it to Stevie. A poignant “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” a pointed “Higher Ground,” and an always invigorating “Superstition,” didn’t make up for the brevity.
Still, I had a terrific evening, it was liked being dipped feet first into live hip hop, dozens of artists you want to see and got to see, all in one night. If it wasn’t so good, and the sound was exceptional, it would be a bit like homework. But it was swiftly paced, passionately conceived and for a great cause. As MC for the evening, a pretty legendary herself Angie Martinez, noted, Tidal had already sent 500 tons of supplies to the island.
I mentioned Chris Brown and Willow Smith as my favorites, let me add Jessie Reyez. I caught her this summer at Governors Ball and was blown away, last night it was my friend Mariah Bailey’s turn to be amazed by this lovely voiced Canadian soul star. Reyez performed the gorgeous “Figures” and the furiously angry “Gatekeeper,” extremely appropriate as sexual harassment has #metoo itself into the US consciousness. It was one of many, many great performances, A$AP Ferg, DJ Khaled, Kaskade, Iggy Azalea (who only got one song: how are the mighty fallen?) and more were all on their game. Better than even last year, when Tidal X gave us Beyonce, the sheer numbers of first rate hip hop stars was a testament to this day and age in modern pop.