“Love me or leave me alone,” was the cry from Jay-Z into the Philadelphia night sky Saturday and off went the “first annual Made in America festival” on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Tens of thousands sweaty concert-goers — many of them shirtless — threw their Hova signs up in the air as the rapper announced his presence on stage, opening with “Public Service Announcement.” That was quickly followed up with a special video message from President Barack Obama, who urged everyone to vote this fall, “whatever your politics or party.”
Jay-Z, dressed in all black, got the party started for real seconds later, when he belted out “H to the Izzo.” His set list featured all his chart-toppers and he pulled out all the stops, including a special tribute video to the City of Brotherly Love, which was capped by a semi-RocBoy reunion with Philly natives Freeway and Young Gunz making appearances. (No Beanie Sigel, but Jay-Z rapped his verses).
“You all know my love affair with Philadelphia,” he shouted. “We made some amazing music in Philadelphia.”
Later, Jay-Z was joined with his New York running crew, Swizz Beatz and Memphis Bleek. Surprisingly, his wife, Beyonce, never took the stage — even though Jay-Z paused in dramatic fashion while sampling “03 Bonnie & Clyde” making many think she would burst onto the scene. Sadly, she didn’t show.
Jay-Z instructed the crowd that “Numb/Encore” — the collab hit with Linkin Park — would be the show’s last number, then after a short rest, with fans shouting “Hova, Hova, Hova,” his voice came back over the speakers and promised a special treat.
“Philly, because you’ve been so good to me, I’m going to be good to you.”
In what was arguably the night’s crescendo, out trotted Kanye West dropping “Cold” lyrics, “Can’t a young nigga get money anymore?” West controlled the stage for the show’s final 40 minutes (Jay-Z’s main set last about an hour) and brought out 2Chainz, Common, Pusha T and Big Sean.
Jay-Z returned a little after 11 p.m. and teamed with West on “Niggas in Paris” to close the show. He thanked everyone for coming out and hugged West as red, white and blue fireworks exploded over the Art Museum stage.
Crowd control, no problems
The scene inside the music festival was similar to an overheated frat party. Tens of thousands roamed the closed-down Parkway, ranging in ages from 16 to 35, all sweaty and armed with Budweisers (24 oz. cans went for $11).
Police manned the perimeters with paramedics patrolling on scooters. The event featured three stages — the main stage in front of the Art Museum, along with the adjacent Liberty Stage and the Freedom Tent down the road.
Janelle Monae rocked the Liberty Stage around 4 p.m. with Maybach Music Group (Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Wale) locking down the main stage at 3:30. Calvin Harris turned the Freedom Tent into the biggest rave party in Philly, complete with laser lights and pulsating base. When he put “Bounce” on the turntables, it felt like a hurricane had hit.
The ultra-elusive Jay Electronica owned the Liberty Stage at 5 in one of the day’s most captivating performances. He hopped into the front row to belt out “Exhibit C” which talks about his time living in North Philadelphia. Electronica, whom Jay-Z has been begging to put out a record for years, announced that his debut album would be coming out “real soon.” He told the crowd it would feature a single with Chris Brown.
Local food vendors, like Chickie’s & Pete’s, Tony Luke’s, Guapo’s and PJ Whelihan’s, peddled their goods out of tents and food trucks and the lines were out of control, worse than the ones for the bathrooms. (Cheesesteaks were selling for $10 a pop).
Of course, the smell of marijuana smoke was hard to ignore. The cops didn’t seem to mind, they just didn’t want people causing any trouble. One woman was escorted out, but it appeared she simply had too much to drink. For the most part the crowd was tame, by Philly standards, and legitimately into the music which blared non-stop for nine hours.
There were no reported incidents, even as a sea of drunk/drugged people filed out of the venue around 11:15. Impressive considering the shootings that happened in the same area less than two months ago, after the free Fourth of July concert.
The festival continues Sunday at 2 p.m.
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