Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Jay Z, Beyoncé the true Super Bowl MVPs
By DJ Skee Special to ESPN.com
Thanks to Jay Z, the DirecTV Super Bowl party might have been the hottest ticket in town.
The most exciting moment of Super Bowl weekend might not have taken place on the field this year. In fact, arguably the toughest ticket to get for the weekend wasn’t even at MetLife Stadium. Instead, Pier 40 off the Hudson River is the spot that will go down as the winner of the Super Bowl XVIII weekend (the Toboggan in Times Square was a close second).
Sometime over the course of history, the Super Bowl not only became a national holiday, but an entire economic ecosystem for NFL, the host city and corporations fueled by elite high-rollers, corporate sponsors and super fans who tap into their retirement to witness the spectacle. However, the entire weekend is over-saturated with events and people trying to get into them. In fact, more people go out for Super Bowl weekend than those who go for the game. To be honest, as a DJ and entertainer who has performed and been to hundred of events across the world, these parties are typically stale.
The problem is the corporations throwing these parties rarely know how to do it right. When artists get offers from the corporate brands, the price of admission immediately jumps and show quality goes down as the energy just isn’t there. Since it's not a major element of their business, brands don’t usually know whom to get or how to put on an event, let alone make it something cool.
Which leads us to something different: DirecTV’s Super Saturday Night. Hosted by Mark Cuban & AXS TV alongside Eli Manning, it featured the best performer you could get for a Super Bowl Weekend in NYC: Jay Z.
Jay is the most successful artist in hip hop, maybe all music, in terms of blending the line between staying credible and on the cutting edge while also being commercially successful and accepted within the corporate world. His catalog is deep, and everyone knows his music and brand. Add in the fact that he’s the reigning king of New York (and sold out the biggest venues in the world like the Rose Bowl on tour this summer) and you have the formula for something special.
I knew it was going to be amazing from the time Cuban sent me a Cyberdust message (his new company) that afternoon making sure I was coming. As the day progressed, I received no less than 50 texts or emails from friends, colleagues, NFL players and associates asking for me to get in, and it hurt to say I had no power. I even tried to add two HUGE (and I mean MVP-winning) current players to the list to no avail. Cuban mentioned they had already gone way over capacity and he had to turn down over 3,000 people who had RSVPd. Tickets were even being sold for thousands of dollars on StubHub for the party.
Throughout the evening I kept hearing the entire scene was a zoo, with the Westside Highway practically shut down outside. Even a few celebrities were left in the cold and couldn’t make it in. Luckily for me, we pulled right up and were rushed right in down the red carpet past a crowd who I later overheard waited more than 45 minutes at will call to pick up tickets followed by an hour entry line outside. Keep in mind these are generally pretty affluent or known people in the first place who had a connection to get in, and most of these people aren’t used to waiting, but did.
After walking in, the entire ambiance of the venue, situated in a multi-story tent over an actual pier, was incredible. Custom light setups, a massive stage, multi-level VIP areas, go-go dancers, free food and drinks and so on. Millions were obviously spent, but done right.
Tiesto opened it up with a good set. Many DJs in this atmosphere would either try too hard to appease a mixed mainstream audience who were primarily there for Jay, or stay too far left and play the hardcore EDM the masses wouldn’t know. Tiesto warmed up the crowd right by playing mainstream records remixed with the EDM sound you expect from him setting up the perfect environment for the night.
As he wrapped up his set, I shunned the VIP area in the back and sides and sneaked to the very first row to be a fan and witness the show from the best perspective. Usually I’ll stay back and try to get out as quick as I can (these type of events are usually work for me either DJing, hosting, or entertaining), but Jay Z has the rare power to excite me still.
As the clock stuck midnight, and technically Super Bowl Sunday was upon us, Jay Z hit the stage backed by his incredible Magna Carta Holy Grail world tour set up consisting of hundreds of LED panels with matching visuals. Surprisingly, he was only backed by a three-piece band, but the setup worked. The band played primarily over the stems of backing tracks reaching a perfect balance between live instruments and the original backing tracks. Often artists will venture too far from the original tracks with a band, but not here.
After going through an astonishing melee of hits old and new, reminding us why he is the greatest hip-hop artist ever (yes), the highlight of the evening happened when Beyoncé surprised the crowd for a “Drunk In Love” duet with Mr. Carter. There were rumors of a big surprise coming, and with Jay Z on stage in his hometown for Super Bowl weekend, the crowd definitely expected something. However, Beyoncé is such a star in her own right, many shunned at the idea earlier, especially since she did Super Bowl halftime last year. Luckily for us, Billboard Magazine's current cover issue models and power couple of the year delivered in the end with a short-but-sweet performance capped off by a touching showing of affection, complete with Jay bowing down. Oh, did I mention how stunning Beyoncé looked in person? Seriously, she was unreal.
The remainder of the show kept the energy at a 10 as Jay masterfully worked the hometown crowd, even bringing up a fan to sing “New York, New York.” After a 75-minute set that seemed to fly by, Jay gracefully exited the stage tastefully and strong without going for the cliché encore that most artists vastly overuse. In the end, especially after witnessing the massacre of Sunday’s big game, Jay Z proved yet again why he is the true king of New York, and why he and Beyoncé rule the world, as they were the true Super Bowl Weekend MVPs.