Jay-Z sure knows how to make an entrance.

A recording of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” launched a 10-minute video countdown for the New York rapper’s appearance at the Air Canada Centre on Halloween night.

The arena lights dimmed. With 28 seconds to go, the music stopped and the crowd of 14,000 began chanting “Hova,” one of the entertainer’s many aliases, and put their thumbs and forefingers together in the shape of his diamond logo.

Right on cue, the performer rose up from a trap door, clad in black and wearing a trick-or-treat friendly hockey mask which he quickly exchanged for sunglasses as the band introduced “Run This Town.”

That was followed by “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” another selection from current album The Blueprint 3, which the performer referred to as “superhero music.”

That may be the better characterization of Jay-Z’s status in hip hop, than the messianic position he’s more commonly afforded given his longevity and propensity for self-attached monikers like (Je)Hova and “The Rock of Gibraltar.”

His transition from teen drug dealer to rapper (with 1996’s Reasonable Doubt), to record company president, to husband of squeaky-clean diva Beyoncé to surpassing Elvis Presley’s record with 11 No. 1 albums is an extraordinary feat.

And having tempered the misogynistic lyrics and amped up his charitable efforts, Jay-Z who turns 40 next month, is exuding Clark Kent vulnerability these days. A recent sit-down with Oprah Winfrey found him recalling the pain of being abandoned by his father. His expressions of gratitude to attendees certainly seemed sincere at Saturday’s show, where tickets were priced up to $175.

He generously shared the spotlight, bringing back opening acts, N.E.R.D.’s Pharrell Williams and up-and-coming rapper J. Cole, during his 90-minute set, allowing local rapper Drake his first performance (“Successful”) since undergoing knee surgery last month and shouting out Toronto’s Kardinal Offishall in the audience.

Jay-Z, who last played the arena in April 2008, co-headlining with Mary J. Blige, performed hits such as, “99 Problems,” “Hard Knock Life” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “Big Pimpin’.”

With a clothing line, sports clubs and co-ownership of the New Jersey Nets, rap could have just become Jay-Z’s calling card, but he’s still dominating the genre.

Though The Blueprint 3 debuted to mixed reviews in September, it’s proved a contender, spawning a number of gems – “Thank You,” “Empire State of Mind” and “Already Home”– which were wildly embraced at the concert.

“I am a multi millionaire/So how is it/I’m still the hardest nigga here?” Jay-Z wonders in “D.O.A.,” echoing others’ consternation about his staying power.

It’s the authority of his against-the-odds ascendance; effective producers who find him sing-along choruses and catchy beats; and a knack for irreverent stick-to-your-ribs lines like: “This ain’t for sing-a-longs/This is Sinatra at the opera/Bring a blond/Preferably with a fat ass/Who can sing-a-song.”

The show was enthralling, but not ideal: Jay-Z’s touring voice is raggedy, his focus on “the haters” gets tiresome and hypeman Memphis Bleek is ineffectual.

Among the highlights: back-up vocalist Bridget Kelly’s powerful turn on Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” hook; the 10-piece band’s killing horn section; and the unique video towers that recreated the Big Apple skyline.

With a nod to self-actualizing books like The Seat of the Soul and The Celestine Prophecy, which he told Winfrey are nightstand staples, he now desires to encourage others.

“It sounds like a cliché, but you can’t let nobody block your dreams,” he counselled the ACC crowd. “If you have so much ambition, you will be so successful.”

He says it better on “So Ambitious”:

“I felt so inspired by what my teacher said/Said I’d either be dead or be a reefer head … I went from pauper to the president/Every deal I ever made set precedent … Dear Teacher, you’re probably somewhere near a speaker/I’m balling outta control, can you hear my sneakers?”

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