Jay-Z calls for love, plays the hits, ends before 10 p.m.

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UPDATE: Austin City Limits Music Festival organizers say there was a mix up on the schedule for Jay-Z’s weekend one set time. Next week’s schedule has been corrected and Jay-Z will perform from 8:30 to 10 p.m. and not 8:15 to 10 p.m. as the weekend one schedule said.

Let’s start at the end. Either no one told Jay-Z how unbelievably bad Austin audiences are at calling for encores or he just decided to end his set 15 minutes early. It’s unclear which one happened.

Related: Jay-Z fans make fast friends as they stake out a front-row spot at ACL Fest

He logged a solid set. There were no special guests, but it was heavy enough with hits that no one seemed to care. The ending, however, was undeniably anticlimactic.

Jay-Z performs the headling set on Day 1 of the 2017 ACL Music Festival held at Zilker Park in Austin. Suzanne Cordeiro / for American-Statesman

Encores are a tired trope of a bygone era and really have no place in a festival set, but Jay-Z closed out the main portion of his set with an emotional performance of “Numb/Encore” followed by a full crowd sing-along of “Forever Young.” It was a grand sweeping finale, wrapping the main portion of his set at roughly 9:38 p.m.

He signed a few autographs before he left the stage, which was nice, but then he was gone. The front section of the crowd cheered enthusiastically while the bulk of the massive crowd stood around looking confused.

“Y’all were so loud I had to come back,” the rap superstar lied when he returned a few minutes later. He launched into a ballistic version of “99 Problems.” The crowd went wild. And then he was gone again. At 9:45.

Once more the crowd stood around looking confused. About five minutes passed. Nothing happened. Then finally festival staff put a sign that said “goodnight” on the big screen. Ten minutes before park curfew.

How relevant is Jay Z in 2017? This is a question that lit up my Facebook feed in the weeks leading up to the fest. With the exception of a few hits, most notably “Empire” and his Kanye collabs, the bulk of his meaningful catalog lands in the pre-retirement section of his career, before 2004.

His new album “4:44” contains his most important work in years and his performance of the title track on ‘SNL’ a week before the fest was a breathtaking rebuke to toxic masculinity and a bold statement about his evolution as an individual. But most of the album is exclusively available on the Tidal streaming service, subscribed to by a small segment of the music listening public.

Outside of a few exclusive South by Southwest appearances, this was Jay-Z’s first show in Austin since 2009. The appetite for his performance was strong — the crowd that packed the space in front of the skyline stage was thick and ran deep — but not strong enough to sell out the fest.

Related: While Jay-Z played, many on social media wondered: Where’s Beyoncé?

Performing with a live band obscured by a massive metal sculpture of a balloon dog created by Jeff Koons, he opened with a one-two punch of Kanye-free abbreviated versions of “Run This Town” and “No Church in the Wild.”

Then he took a moment to address the crowd. “I appreciate every single one of y’all tonight,” he said, before reflecting on the events of the past few weeks. “There’s lot going on in the world… a lot of evil in the world… but love will always conquer hate.”

More: Foster the People swap gun violence song “Pumped Up Kicks” for “Love”

Then the groove for his “Black Album” hit “Lucifer” dropped. The core sample is an old reggae song by Max Romeo. He introed his track by playing the first verse of Romeo’s original: “I’m going to put on an iron shirt and chase Satan out of earth.”

Related: Armed with a rainbow parachute, Andrew McMahon pays tribute to Las Vegas

It seemed like a pointed statement about where his mind is.

Then he did a quick cut of “Lucifer,” his voice trailing off at the end “I’ve got to get my soul right…I’ll chase you out of earth,” he said as the beat naturally segued into his current hit “Bam.”

Jay-Z is a commanding performer. The crowd bounced when he said bounce, waved side to side on demand and formed a mosh pit at his request. Twice.

Kids in the middle of the crowd selfie videoed themselves singing off-key to “Empire State of Mind,” rapped every word to “Big Pimpin’” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and listened politely to new tracks like “The Story of O.J.,” “Marcy Me” and “Family Feud.”

Close to the end of the set, he acknowledged the hurricanes that have devastated parts of the country including a wide swath of the Texas coast. He asked the audience to put two fingers in the air and send love to anyone who’s hurting, anyone who’s endured hardships. It was an appropriate intro to an ecstatically received rendition  of “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).”

From there he went into the “Encore.” It would have been a triumphant finale, except for the early ending. Which was just plain weird.

ACL Fest: While Jay-Z played, many on social media wondered: Where’s Beyoncé?

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Ever since Jay-Z was announced as an Austin City Limits Music Festival headliner, it was widely speculated that his better half, superstar Beyoncé (maybe you’ve heard of her) would be joining him.


We even speculated ourselves: “There’s been rampant speculation about whether or not Beyoncé would make an appearance at ACL Fest. Queen Bey has not played Austin since the early aughts, when Destiny’s Child played the Star of Texas Rodeo (then called Rodeo Austin). We at Team 360 have been conservative on the ‘Yoncé/ACL odds…Beyoncé is no ordinary human being, but she’s a rigorous perfectionist who wouldn’t hit a stage unless she felt 300% ready.”

Beyonce and Jay Z attend Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

More: Jay-Z fans make fast friends as they stake out a front-row spot at ACL Fest

Sadly, Queen Bey did not perform during her husband’s set Friday night on the American Express stage at Zilker Park. But that didn’t stop her fans on social media from wondering where she was.




Better luck next time, y’all. Hov is on next weekend’s lineup, but a Beyoncé appearance isn’t likely next Friday either. But there’s always a chance.

Jay-Z fans make fast friends as they stake out a front-row spot at ACL Fest

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Promise filled the air on the opening afternoon of the 16th annual Austin City Limits Festival, as fans steeled themselves against the punishing heat and posted up at the American Express Stage in anticipation of Jay-Z’s headlining set, still eight hours away.

They had a few things on their side. Methyl Ethel quelled the heat with their breezy indie rock, and crafty folks strung a blanket across the barricade as a makeshift tarp.

Jay-Z fans wait Friday afternoon or his set to start Friday night. From left to right: Stephanie Cisneros, Brianna Spiller, Annie Harris ans Abinav Kumar. (Tess Cagle/American Statesman)

Under such conditions, festival-goers make fast friends. University of Texas students Annie Harris and Abinav Kumar and recent graduate Brianna Spiller braved the sun’s unforgiving rays together, stocking up on GoodPops and kettle corn to last them through the long haul.

Spiller and Harris were no strangers to camping out for a festival headliner; they did the same thing for the Foo Fighters at ACL 2015. Spiller had simple but essential advice: “Stay out of the sun. Drink lots of water. Don’t move. And make friends!”

They practiced what they preached, befriending fellow long-hauler Stephanie Cisneros, who’s been a Jay fan since his first album, “Reasonable Doubt,” which dropped when she was in high school. Cisneros had seen the rapper twice before, but never in this capacity. As she put it: “You’re not gonna be front row unless you pay.”

By 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled again to a couple hundred, with fans eager for Andrew McMahon’s early set. They were the privileged ones, able to find sanctuary in Zilker Park’s precious few shaded groves at the end of his hourlong performance. But as the crowd ebbed and flowed all day, the HOV stans remained, determined to see the iconic headliner front-and-center.

These folks had 99 problems—impending sunburn, hunger pangs, aching feet—but a lack of willpower wasn’t one.

Confirmed: Jay Z added to ACL Fest bill, after social media hints

Update: ACL Fest confirmed Thursday afternoon that Jay Z has in fact been added to the 2017 lineup.

The last time Hova came to Austin was during South by Southwest in 2014, when he played Austin Music Hall with Kanye West, revisiting 2011’s “Watch the Throne” tour. It was beautiful. It was epic. They defended the throne. Check out the review for a taste of what Jay may have in store for festival-goers in six months.

One question remains: Will the queen be joining us? Experts estimate Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins are due sometime this summer. Could that mean the Carter family could hit the road to Austin together? After all, Solange is playing the fest, too.

Oh, and of course, people are freaking out about this news.


Earlier: OK, now the Austin City Limits Music Festival is just trolling us. Reports surfaced Thursday afternoon on Twitter that the festival’s app was sending out notifications reading, “Now, can I get an encore? Do you want more?” — a lyric from rapper Jay Z’s smash song “Encore.” Is he about to be added to the fest lineup announced this morning?

If it happens, it would be a notable boost to a lineup that seems to have so far received relatively lukewarm response on social media Thursday. (KGSR’s Andy Langer suggested the lack of major draws indicated ACL seemed to be taking a relatively passive “go for the festival, stay for the music” approach.)

On the other hand: While Jay Z is undeniably one of the biggest rap stars on the planet and a great performer with hits for days, it’s been years since he’s had a pivotal album. That said, when he announced his headline slot at his own festival, Made in America, fans began to speculate it meant a new record was coming.  Perhaps he has that answer album to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” no one really asked for, or maybe something much better in the works.

Is Jay Z being added to the ACL Fest lineup? Stay tuned. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2011

We’ll update if/when ACL Fest offers any confirmation about a Jay Z addition. In the meantime, check out our take on this morning’s announced lineup:

Chance the Rapper, Killers, Gorillaz, Red Hot Chili Peppers to play ACL Fest 2017