"I wonder if Wayne will even show up," a fan speculated from the back of a New Jersey Transit bus packed with teens and 20-somethings pulling into the Meadowlands Izod Center Tuesday night for Power 105.1's Powerhouse hip-hop extravaganza. Two hours later, after an aggressive opening set from Yonkers tough guys D-Block, Ne-Yo concluded his performance (featuring appearances by Jadakiss, Plies and Fabolous) with "Closer" and an assuring introduction: "The show's about to begin!" Ne-Yo announced. "Get ready for Lil Wayne and Jay-Z!"
Wayne entered to a menacing rock rhythm in a brown flannel lumberjack shirt, thick glasses and fingerless gloves. He flashed his signature grin and hovered over the microphone center stage for "Mr. Carter." Jay-Z didn't appear for his verse as promised, but the disappointed audience chanted along anyway. Next, Weezy said he had three very important things to share. "The first one is that I believe in God, do you? The second one is that I ain't shit without you. The third one is, I'm registered to vote, are you?" The crowd cheered but not nearly as loudly as they did a few songs later, when they drowned Wayne out during an alarmingly arousing, extended version of "Lollipop." Weezy wound up writhing on the stage floor, crooning like his life depended on it: "Giving, getting head! Giving, getting head!"
Wayne was soon upright again, with an electric guitar, though he didn't play it as much as he wore it. "Now if you met me, you won't forget me," he promised as he opened a rocked out version of "Shoot Me Down," with a wicked look in his eyes. "We're in New York, right? Wayne asked. "Ya'll like surprises and shit out here," he said as Birdman joined his surrogate son for "Pop Bottles." By the end of the show, Wayne was shirtless, his pants hanging below his boxers, clapping and stomping and waving his arms like a star spiraling past his prime in slow motion. He lip synced along with Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" as he made a slow exit in a white bathrobe: "I love you! Don't forget to vote!" Backstage before the show, Wayne and DJ Ed Lover chatted about Weezy's new son, born in Cincinnati last week. "I delivered him. I held the left leg the whole time," Wayne said. "It was nasty, very nasty, but it was wonderful."
After Wayne's strange pain, Jay-Z seemed more the icy precise pro than ever, zipping through hits from American Gangster, The Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt. "I'm not telling you what to do, I'm just telling you what I'm gonna do, I'm voting for Barack Obama," Jay said. "Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama is running so we all could fly."
Jay later performed his verse from "Swagger Like Us" and "Hello Brooklyn" but Wayne didn't join him. Busta Rhymes watched from the crowd. An hour later, Jay was still going, hit after hit, alone aside from a few appearances by Memphis Bleek. And then Beyoncé strutted onstage with two women behind her, all in black spandex, and sang the "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" hook — "If you liked it then you should've put a ring on it" — as she flashed a rock on her right hand.
Nearing midnight, Jay wrapped it up with "Encore" after once again reminding his fans to vote. For 10 more minutes, Jay shouted out individual fans throughout the arena and thanked them — the three girls in the neon T-shirts all the way up to the guy in stripes in the rafters. "I appreciate every single person in this building because I'm from the bottom and the only reason I do this is to inspire you."