Photo gallery: Jay Z performs at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln
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LINCOLN — He had them as soon as he threw up the diamond.
During his first song on Sunday, Jay Z made his signature hand gesture — a diamond formed by spreading his forefinger and thumb apart on each hand and touching this fingers together — and the thousands at Pinnacle Bank Arena followed suit.
They remained in his sway for the next two hours, even when the power went out onstage.
"Nebraska, what's up?" asked the rapper, born Shawn Carter, while his fans welcomed him to the state for the first time. "Finally!"
For the 90 minutes he was onstage Sunday night, Jay Z could do no wrong in then eyes of the 10,000 or so gathered at the arena.
All together, they sang Justin Timberlake's parts in "Holy Grail" and finished the lines in Jay Z's "99 Problems." One woman even rapped "Beach is Better" word-for-word while Mr. Carter, clad all in black with a huge gold chain, faced her and rapped it right along with her. He finished the song with a big grin on his face.
"This is my first time here and I'm really feeling at home," he said. "I really appreciate it."
It was a great set that sampled from the breadth of his career as well as about half of his latest record, "Magna Carta... Holy Grail."
Songs such as "99 Problems" and "Empire State of Mind" are so well-known that they made for the bet parts of the show. Jay Z could have probably sat back and let the audience shout his parts, but he cleared his throat and threw himself into the songs.
Another highlight was a quick interlude where Timbaland, the renowned producer and rapper who acted as Jay Z's DJ for the night, assumed the lead role while Jay Z took a break. He beatboxed, slung samples together and even rapped a couple verses from his new track, "Know Bout Me." It was a nice surprise in the middle of the show.
Speaking of surprises, the show's only hiccup was a 40-minute gap in Jay Z's set caused by some kind of technical difficulty. Less than 10 seconds into "N****s in Paris," the song completely stopped. Shortly thereafter, Jay Z and his four-man backing band were escorted from the stage.
Though the lights stayed on in the arena, Jay Z later alluded to some kind of power failure. Fans used the time for bathroom and beer breaks while others chanted Jay Z's nickname: "Hova! Hova! Hova!"
When the show finally resumed, Jay Z apologized.
"Nebraska, you still there tonight?" He said. "We ain't gonna let no power stop us tonight. Let's try this again. Hands in the air!"
He kicked into "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and then resumed "N****s In Paris," and then finished the show with only skipping one song he had been performing in other cities. The unfortunate break happened near the end of Jay Z's set, and it was actually the best possible timing for a break since he came back out swinging with some of his biggest songs including "Run This Town."
That song and those in his finale showed just why the hip-hop mogul is "the best rapper ever," as he says in "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."
Rappers are always trying to prove they're the best at what they do, and after seeing Jay Z do his thing on Sunday, I think he's got it right when he makes his claim.
I've seen a lot of the best rappers around in the last year (some new on the scene and others with decades spent in the game), and Jay Z's stadium-shaking show was by far the best.
Amid a haze of marijuana smoke and bass so loud it echoed through the arena concourse, he spit old rhymes from "Big Pimpin'" and brand new ones including "Holy Grail."
Those two songs were made more than a decade apart, and Jay Z is still making some of his best stuff.
"Run This Town" shows he has some serious pop talent, too. And he can rhyme as good as anyone on tunes like "99 Problems" and "Empire State of Mind."
And, most importantly, Jay Z can put a crowd in a frenzy and keep them there for hours. Fans shouted every word to "Hard Knock Life" and filled the aisles (much to the annoyance of security) to dance during "On to the Next One."
I've never seen a crowd quite like that.
When he returned to the stage after the outage, the rapper showed off his black Husker jersey emblazoned with "S. Carter" on the back and thanked the crowd for being so welcoming.
"We turned it up too much in Nebraska and we broke the (expletive) building," he said. "I appreciate each and every person in this building that stayed and rocked with us. That's love."
Jay Z finished the set with "Young Forever," which the audience happily sang along to. (I suspect about 10,000 people will go to work today with hoarse voices.)
With another smile on his face, Jay Z said he'd definitely be back.