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“If you’ve ever been to a Jay-Z concert in your life, you know how it goes,” Shawn Carter told New York City’s sold-out Madison Square Garden last night. He was instructing us on the proper pronoun-shouting pattern to employ while he performed “Jigga What, Jigga Who,” but he might as well have been talking about the night’s overall entertainment. Anyone who’d had the pleasure of seeing Jay-Z in concert before knew what they were in for: Back-to-back-to-back hits, a sick live band, and best of all, the supreme master of ceremonies himself. It doesn’t matter if Jay is rapping to a sweaty little club or, in this case, a huge sporting arena plus a live television audience. Either way, he moves the crowd without fail.

Last night’s “Answer the Call” concert, simulcast by Fuse TV, was special even by Jay-Z’s standards. He was there to celebrate the release of his latest album, The Blueprint 3, as well as the eighth birthday of his original Blueprint, one of the decade’s most enduring albums from any genre. So he gave us a show that was very much like BP3: big, bold stadium-rap, with A-list guests galore. After Santigold came out to rep Brooklyn three songs into his set, it seemed like every single famous person in Jay’s phone book was waiting in the wings. His wife, Beyonce Knowles, was there in full force, though I was disappointed they didn’t do “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” or “Crazy In Love” or even “Upgrade U” together. Rihanna did a triumphant turn on “Run This Town” — where she and Jay were also joined by Kanye West, who went on to do a quick mini-set of his own material. Then there were the cameos from Diddy and John Mayer and Mary J. Blige and Kid Cudi and… (Scroll to the bottom of this post for a full set list including guests.) As Jay-Z hometown event shows go, this was the one to see.

It was also a special night for a more somber reason. The eighth anniversary of The Blueprint‘s arrival was, of course, also the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. All ticket proceeds from the show went to the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Fund, and Jay repeatedly interrupted the show to pay tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11. Sometimes it felt a touch awkward — did he really just dedicate “99 Problems” to…Al Qaeda?! — but mostly he handled the night’s complex emotions gracefully. “They believed that it weakened us,” he said of the terrorists who attacked New York on that day. “They were sadly mistaken.”

Certainly New York seemed stronger than ever while Jay was on stage. Were any of you there at the Garden, or did you watch on Fuse? Who was your favorite surprise guest? Let us know what you thought of Jay-Z’s “Answer the Call” extravaganza in the comments, below.

Set list:

“Empire State of Mind”

“Where I’m From”

“Brooklyn Go Hard” (with Santigold)


“Heart of the City”

“Already Home” (with Kid Cudi)

“Diamonds Are Forever”

“Jigga My N—-“

“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”

“Jigga What, Jigga Who”

“U Don’t Know” (with John Mayer)

John Mayer: Riff medley (“’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” “Run This Town,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “D.O.A.”)

“D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” (with John Mayer)

“Run This Town” (with Rihanna and Kanye West)

Kanye West: “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”

Kanye West: “Good Life”

“99 Problems”

“Venus vs. Mars”

Beyonce: “Diva”

“I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” (with Pharrell)

“On to the Next One” (with Swizz Beatz)

“I Know” (with Pharrell)

“Allure” (with Pharrell)

“Dirt Off Your Shoulder”

“Can’t Knock the Hustle” (with Mary J. Blige)

Mary J. Blige: “The One”

Medley: “Money Ain’t a Thing”/”Excuse me Miss”/”La La La”/”Feelin’ It”/”Fiesta” (remix)/”Lucifer”

“Can I Get A…”

“Big Pimpin'”

“Hard Knock Life”

Moment of silence

“Young Forever”

“Encore” (with Diddy and Kanye West)

Photo credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage