Image Credit: Kent Miller/PR PhotosJay-Z was planning to surprise Midtown Manhattan this coming Monday with a performance outside the studio where CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman tapes — until New York City government bureaucrats nixed the set today. It’s an odd decision, given that massive acts like Phish and Paul McCartney have performed on that same Ed Sullivan Theater balcony as recently as last summer without a problem. What makes this Jay-Z gig different, aside from the fact that he’s a rapper and they’re rockers?

“There was discussion of a concert, and ultimately it was decided there would be no permit,” a representative of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting said in a statement provided to EW. “Many permits are granted on the condition that the event is not made public beforehand for capacity and security reasons. This event was made public.” Yet I was unaware of this performance before news of its cancellation got out, and I am a music journalist who works a few blocks away from the site of the concert. How widely was this secret show really known before this? The city office has not answered my request for clarification on what publicity they’re referring to.

More likely, this has something to do with the near-riot that broke out at a free Drake/Hanson show at NYC’s South Street Seaport earlier this week. Perhaps the city is wary of free outdoor concerts by major stars right now. Fair enough — but if that’s the real reason, then why hasn’t anyone moved to cancel the many free concerts still planned at that same South Street Seaport venue this summer? As the Village Voice has noted, the next scheduled show in the free series that would have brought Drake and Hanson to South Street Seaport is a Ke$ha gig, and her fans are surely no older or less potentially unruly than Jay-Z’s. I can’t help thinking the whole thing smacks of a double standard.

UPDATE: Jay-Z got around the denied permit by moving his Letterman performance to the theater’s rooftop, where he was joined by Eminem.

I’ve reached out to Jay-Z’s camp and the city’s for further comment. ‘Til then, what do you think of this news?

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