On Monday I went to see Kanye West with the Redhead. Holy shit, am I ever happy I made that decision! (A fellow blogger and friend, Luke, also went to the show, though he went in Phoenix. Check out what he thought here.) I Twittered throughout the show, you can see what I said then-and-there at twitter.com.
Kanye brought some friends with him for the night and it kicked of with fellow Chi-towner Lupe Fiasco (it’s pronounced LOOP eh, in case you didn’t know).
You may not know the name, but I’m willing to bet you’ve heard his song “Kick, Push” or perhaps “Super Star”. I missed a few of his first songs, including “Kick, Push” but what I did see was pretty damn good. I don’t know who the girl was that he had on stage with him, but Matthew Santos, who sings the refrain on “Super Star” was pretty damn good on that one and the few other songs he sang.
Next was N*E*R*D. I’m not a huge fan, but I respect these guys. I mean, it is Pharrell and Chad Hugo (The Neptunes), so you kind of have to respect them. But I fell in love with this band. They were so freaking good! The energy, the stage setup, the dueling drums, Pharrell dancing! I don’t own any of the now 3 albums N.E.R.D. have put out, but I assure you I will very soon.
The lack of interactivity the crowd was willing to give was really apparent during this set, though. At one point, Pharrell started crouching and prompting the crowd to do the same, and I don’t think one single person crouched with him. Pretty sad, actually, when PHARRELL can’t get a crowd to so much as crouch a little.
The N*E*R*D set was the first with any real stage setup. They had a pretty killer light screen behind them that was showing some sick graphics throughout most of their set. A sign of better things to come? Perhaps.
After Pharrell and crew left the stage, Rihanna took over. I don’t know anything about Rihanna other than her radio singles. Which admittedly are all pretty amazing. She broke out with “S.O.S.” and later hit the top of the charts with “Umbrella” only to follow up with as big a single in “Don’t Stop the Music”. I was probably looking forward to Rihanna the least, though I was intrigued (and not only because she’s amazingly hot).
Though her set seemed the shortest of the night, she managed several costume changes, and some really cool choreography from her dancers (including a light saber sort of dance off). While I’m glad I saw her performance, to be honest, I could have just as well gone without. Sorry, Rihanna.
But then came the man of the hour. The real reason why everyone was at the E Center on June 9th. The biggest ego in hip-hop (maybe all of music): Kanye West. ‘Ye hasn’t been allowing pictures at his shows. And I don’t mean that he hasn’t been allowing cameras (and I did see a couple confiscated), I mean he isn’t letting press in to take pictures. No press. None. Insane? Perhaps.
You’ve heard of rock operas, right? Quadrophenia, The Wall, and more recently American Idiot and Welcome To the Black Parade are all rock operas, aka concept albums. Well, this night (and I’m sure every night of the tour) Kanye took his 3 albums, which definitely have a plot arc to them, and made a rap opera. The basic story line was that ‘Ye crash landed on an unknown planet and couldn’t get off because his ship was broken and out of power.
Sure, the idea seems a bit hokey, but he pulled it off so well that it is sure to remembered for some time. He played songs from each of his three albums, and made them work for different parts of the story. It worked so well, with just Kanye on stage for nearly the entire show, that I can’t imagine more rappers won’t follow suit.
I was lucky enough to be sitting in the second section from stage right, 4th row. Being that close to such an amazing show made it exponentially better, I’m sure, but I doubt there was a single person there that was disappointed with the product. There were 3 video screens on the stage, one of which was a floor piece that moved and acted as the prop for the space ship. Another was the ship’s control system, “Jane” and the 3rd, the largest, was a curtain style screen behind the mountainous stage setup that represented the horizon of this unknown planet.
Not only did this show, and it was more than just a show, completely engulf me and the entire audience, it was so captivating that I can easily say it was the best concert I’ve ever seen. I have seen U2, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam and many other huge acts, but they all pale in comparison to the Glow In the Dark tour.
Kanye rapped about loss, women, his mother, parties, and so much more. All within the context of being Lost in Space. He crashed, existed on this strange planet, and escaped, all while rapping his own songs, not changing any of them, but making them work perfectly in that context. It was a genius move that could have easily failed. But like Kanye said in his motivational speech to end the show, “If you don’t try, you’ll always fail.” (Or something to that extent.) And on this night, not only did Mr. West not fail, he was so immensely successful as to make me wonder if he even has failure in him. The man, as an entertainer, is simply above all the rest.
If you have an opportunity to see this show you must do so. It will be worth every penny you spend.