Good thing the song “Jesus Walks” sounded just Christian enough that my Mom allowed my brother to purchase “The College Dropout” in 2004, because ever since then, I’ve been a fan of Kanye West. A shocking thing to admit, especially in the year 2016. I could write a small novel on why I think Mr. West is deserving of my fandom, or how we, as a society, give other celebrities a pass on far worse behaviour than he has ever exhibited, but I wont. I get it, you love to hate Kanye, I wont try to change your mind. For those of you who can separate the man from the art, welcome to my article; a concert review almost 12 years in the making.
I’ve been waiting to see a live Kanye show for a long time, so when I found out he was coming to town, I immediately wrangled up some tickets and prayed he would actually make it this time. Aside from eagerly awaiting the chance to scream out lyrics with thousands of like-minded people, I was really looking forward to taking in the spectacle. Kanye has made a name for himself by having innovative stage designs on every one of his tours. Aliens, Spaceships, Jesus, 10-meter-high mountains, overarching narratives — all things one might see at a Kanye show.
The tickets proclaimed that the show started at 8pm, and like a fool I believed them. I arrived at the stadium just in time to wait around for an hour and a half. From my seats though, I noticed the massive lighting rig hanging ominously above the floor, and I do mean ominous. A strange, deep, tribal sounding throat singing was coming through the sound system, as four smoke machines slowly filled the stadium with fog. Finally, after over an hour in a room that was incrementally getting hazier, the house lights cut out and the sea of kids in dad hats, bomber jackets, and ripped jeans, collectively lost its mind as Kanye took the stage.
If Kanye has a reputation for being maximalist when it comes to stage design, this tour was aggressively minimal. The main feature of this show was the suspended stage that moved across the entire floor of Roger’s Arena as the crowd underneath jockeyed for a better view. The audience really was the main focus of this show: a swarming mass of people shifting around the floor whilst being illuminated by the lights on the underside of the floating stage.
Oftentimes Kanye himself was shrouded in fog, barely lit by the single spotlight above him. A grid of lights that ran the entire length of the arena hung above the floating stage, which at times would descend and form a makeshift ceiling above the crowd. If I could sum up the aesthetic of this concert it would be: “Industrial Dystopian.” The colour of the lights, the constant shifting and bouncing of the stage, and the perpetual haze provided by smoke machines made the entire show seem like it could have taken place in Blade Runner.
I will say that for all of the spectacle that the floating stage provided, I feel it was also the show’s biggest flaw. Seeing as how Kanye was tethered to the floor with a cable, he couldn’t exactly bring much energy to his performance. There were some exceptions to this though, and on quite a few of his high-energy tracks, he had the entire crowd in his hand.
For most tracks though, it just felt like he was moving as little as possible, and performed his own songs with such little enthusiasm that I felt myself getting bored. This was pretty disappointing, I was hoping for the high-energy Kanye, the spaz in the news Kanye, but I was left with a pretty subdued Kanye.
All in all, if I had to rate this show? Still an 8/10 as far as the overall spectacle goes. I have never seen such amazing use of an entire Arena. With his music, Kanye is known as an innovator who can push the limits of what hip hop can be. I felt that same philosophy in the way this show was set up. As far as Kanye’s performance itself? I have to give it like a 6/10. He just didn’t bring that energy required to really entertain.