“Allow to me to reintroduce myself,” a beaming, tuxedo-clad Jay-Z teased at the top of his charity show at Carnegie Hall in New York City last night.
He didn’t have to, of course, but when you’ve got an evergreen show-starter like “Public Service Announcement” on your hands, you use it.
The giddy new father was kicking off the first half of his two-night stand at the hallowed venue, the proceeds of which will benefit United Way of New York City and the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation.
Backed by a 36-piece orchestra, Jay swaggered across the stage with a bottle of champagne in his hand (“It’s tea,” he claimed) as images of Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects and other hometown signifiers splashed on the wall behind him.
It didn’t take long before Alicia Keys jumped out of the wings and to the piano to assume her “Empire State of Mind” duties, but she wasn’t the night’s biggest surprise. That distinction went to Jay-Z’s former nemesis Nas, who came out and ran through his Illmatic classic “NY State of Mind” with his host, and an Alicia Keys duet of “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).”
Later in the show, Jay regained the stage to give his Blue Ivy Carter tribute song “Glory” its first live performance. (You can watch it here.) “I didn’t think I was gonna make it through that one,” he admitted after the song. “That was tough.”
And while B.I.C. wasn’t in the house (we don’t think), her mom Beyoncé did catch the show. And according to his on-stage shout outs, fellow boldfaced names Liza Minnelli and Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia were also in the crowd, though not together (we don’t think).
By the end of the show, Jay, too, was in the crowd. The now un-tuxedoed rapper made his way to up to the balcony and, holding onto one very excited fan for balance, stood on a Carnegie Hall seat to close out the show with “Money Ain’t a Thang” and a bar of “Can’t Knock the Hustle.”
“It was amazing,” his wife later said of the show. True story.