Its unlikely that the full impact of the live performances will hit home to viewers unfamiliar with Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella Records stable of artists. Another frustration is trying to identify the array of visitors who trade raps on Jays stage. Included in the star-studded lineup are Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown, Pharell, Ghostface Killah, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, and R. Kelly. One unmistakable figure--and we do mean figure--is Jays squeeze Beyonce, who raises the temperature and the roof with her skimpy outfit, flowing hair, soulful yowl, and sexed-up dance routine that leaves her boyfriend and the whole of Madison Square Garden slack-jawed with animal desire.
Twenty cameras captured the event, and some of the most powerful sequences are sweeping moves across the swirling, blissed-out masses as they lip sync along in perfect unison with Jay-Zs complex, profane, quick-witted raps. Less effective are intermittent cutaway segments that show the artist in various studio settings working up beats and rhymes. These amateurish home video breaks may give some insight to Jays perfectionism and dedication to his craft, but they detract from the visceral power of the beautifully executed performance footage. --Ted Fry