Oh did you hear that Jay-Z and Kanye West officially kicked off their Watch the Throne tour in Atlanta on Friday night? Well they did! And judging by the glowing reviews that are pouring in from the duo’s opening night performance, the time and preparation the two spent putting it all together — including close to two months in a Birmingham, Alabama warehouse — appear to have been well worth the effort.
Of the reviews I’ve read so far, one was the most interesting, mainly because it had less to do with the show itself than with what went on backstage before and after the show. GQ sent Will Welch to Atlanta with a backstage, all-access pass (BASTARD!) where he chronicled what he saw, heard and felt.
8:40 p.m. Kanye West’s road manager Don C opens a back door at Phillips Arena and lets us in. “They’re about to walk,” he says, meaning Jay and Ye are about to take the stage. “So let’s go right now.” Don C takes us back to Kanye’s dressing room. Kanye is standing in front of a mirror as two styling assistants hurriedly push pins into a leather kilt. He’s wearing an extra-long custom black T-shirt. It has the image of Kanye’s face melded with a saber-toothed tiger (or some kind of large cat) from the Watch the Throne album packaging screened on it, along with stars around the neck, and the initials JZ and KW in gothic font on the sleeves. Plus the kilt, black leather pants, and his own Nike hi-tops, the Air Yeezy 2. He says, “Pretty psychedelic, right?” We agree and then Kanye’s creative director, Virgil Abloh, politely asks us to maybe, you know, let the man finish getting ready for the tour that’s starting in a couple of minutes? #yikes #noprob
8:45 p.m. Backstage is buzzing. LeBron James is here wearing a snakeskin Miami Heat snapback cap made by Don C. We ask him for a GQ vs. LeBron rematch in Miami. He laughs. We take that as a yes?
8:55 p.m. About ten of us are bullshitting in a hallway backstage when the door to the dressing room marked simply “Hov” opens and Jay-Z walks out. He’s wearing a Yankees snapback pulled way low. Like, Kanye, Jay also wears an extra-long black custom tee with stars around the neck and the initials JZ and KW in gothic font on the sleeves. There is no Jay-Z cat face, leather kilt, or leather pants. He is gripping a glass of red wine. We can’t smell the wine, but the wine smells expensive. The whole hallway goes quiet and stares. He moves slowly and in silence—and his presence instantaneously sucks up all the oxygen in the room, all the noise. Nobody so much as breathes. Jay’s got a screwed up look on his face, like he’s disgusted by his own swagger, and like he’s about to kill a person. Or maybe 20,000 people—a whole audience. Everybody in the hallway knows Shawn Carter to one extent or another, but sometimes, like in this moment, they’re just fans like everyone else.
11:37 p.m. Backstage after the show, Kanye and Jay are hanging out across from each other in the hallway, both soaking up congrats and analyzing the highlights and lowlights of opening night. It seems clear that the show will be tweaked—and that this is going to be one badass motherfucking tour. Kanye is sweating, his eyes blood red, still wearing his leather ensemble and a toreador jacket he added mid-show and generally looking like he just survived an almost 40-song set; Jay-Z has changed into a new white V-neck and a different snapback cap, showing no signs that he just performed an almost 40-song set.
11:51 p.m. Jay-Z hangs in his dressing room—all white curtains and couches—with his friends and pregnant wife, Beyoncé. Hangers-on, us included, mill around, trying not to overstep any boundaries—but not quite ready to leave the presence of the significant post-show glow. It’s awkward and exhilarating. We find ourselves at the bar setup trying to figure out what to drink; Fabolous recommends coconut-flavored Ciroc and Pineapple juice. That’ll work.
That all sounds about right. Here they are opening the show with “Otis”…
(Pic via Flickr)