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Live review: Jay-Z at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion

November 9, 2009 |  3:11 pm

JAYZ_UCLA_GETTY The rap superstar is generous with sharing the spotlight -- OMG, was that Rihanna? -- in a show that also included sets by N.E.R.D., J.Cole and Wale.

It's not easy to upstage Jay-Z, especially at his own show. But during a performance Sunday at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, one special guest managed to do just that -- and it wasn't the rap superstar's wife, Beyoncé.

Not quite midway through the show, Rihanna, draped in black and standing on an elevated riser, emerged from underneath the stage to sing her vocal on Jay-Z's summer hit, "Run This Town," from his 11th studio album, “The Blueprint 3.”

Young women in the audience jumped onto their chairs, camera phones in hand, for a better glimpse, their screams ringing out in near unison over the arena. One fan nearby turned to her friend and screamed, "Oh my God, is that really her?"

It was the first time the pop star had performed since breaking her nearly nine month silence last week about being assaulted by former boyfriend Chris Brown in February.

Armed with a newfound swagger, she sang on "Run This Town," then treated the crowd to the new single "Hard" from her upcoming album, "Rated R," due Nov. 23. Jay-Z nodded his head in approval -- from the side of the stage.

He was equally generous when it came to spotlighting the other performers on the bill. J.Cole, the first act signed to Jay-Z's label Roc Nation, opened the show and joined the rapper later for their collaboration "A Star Is Born."

Up-and-comer Wale was embraced by the sold-out crowd, who rapped along with every word of the Washington, D.C., native's hit "Chillin" from his studio debut, "Attention Deficit," out Tuesday. No stranger to the mix-tape circuit, Wale appeared every bit the seasoned performer, delivering a high-energy, engaging set.

When it came to high energy, though, it would have been difficult for any of the acts to compete with N.E.R.D. The band, fronted by the Neptunes' Pharell Williams, doesn't have the same album sales as the artists it produces, but group's fan base is loyal, judging by how easily concertgoers transformed the arena into a raucous mosh pit.

Playing for an hour, the genre-bending rockers ran through such hits as "Lapdance" and "Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom)," with Lupe Fiasco joining them on the latter track. Williams' raspy falsetto was sometimes lost in the massive mix, but the presence of female vocalist Rhea added a strong, sexy edge to the songs.

Jay-Z used his two-hour set to run through an abbreviated catalog of hits and wasted no time getting to his current single, "Empire State of Mind."

He'll return to L.A. next year with a March 26 performance at Staples Center.

gerrick.kennedy@latimes.com

RELATED:

First listen: Jay-Z's 'Blueprint

Live review: Jay-Z keeps his friends close in Las Vegas

Photo credit: Getty Images

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