In a year that’s seen the young, dynamic duo of Usher and Kanye West pretentiously label their tour The Truth, it’s gratifying to find a coheadlining jaunt that actually deserves its bombastic moniker. On the fourth night of The Best of Both Worlds, ”retired” rap king Jay-Z and R&B heavyweight R. Kelly triumphantly shared the stage in front of a near-capacity Cleveland arena, making it blindingly evident: They’re simply the most prolific, consistent urban hitmakers of their generation.
Even if the pair’s generic collaborations (like current single ”Big Chips”) were to blame for the night’s weakest moments, their alternating mini-sets were used to satisfying, complementary effect. Like a formula-tested date movie, Jay-Z flexed action-adventure while Kelly oozed romance. And raunch. Despite his recent scandals, the pied piper of R&B is still unabashedly lascivious. Various a cappella interludes saw him extolling the virtues of kitchen and monkey sex, respectively. But on the insta-classic ”Step in the Name of Love (Remix), ” a smiling, dancing, and positively glowing Kelly offered a welcome contrast to his kinky-metaphor-addicted persona.
If Kelly was the freaky sideshow, Jay-Z was all cool charisma, spitting out countless party records with bravado and displaying surprising emotional versatility during The Blueprint’s wrenching ”Song Cry.” Too bad both artists relied on prerecorded music, forsaking the creative possibilities of Jigga’s magnificent 2001 MTV Unplugged gig with the Roots. This, of course, is nitpicking. After two and a half hours that touched on nearly 60 (!) songs, these superstars dutifully delivered on their titular promise. And that’s the truth. B+