Kanye West said he’s the number one most impactful artist of our generation, and has equated himself to the likes of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. Kanye has always stirred commotion for himself in the public eye.
This kind of self-righteousness turns many away from the rapper, but after seeing him perform live, I can say he is not wrong about himself. How could the writhing fans cloying towards him, like souls in purgatory, not depict him as the musical God he claims to be? Here is an artist who was opening for U2 eleven years ago and now has built one of the most compelling musical movements of this generation. Anyone passing off Kanye’s personal inflation as some kind of cue to discredit his music or dismiss what he has to say, clearly have not seen Kanye perform live.
The performance format of the Saint Pablo tour was a floating stage. The stage was accompanied by a huge panel of lights about the size of basketball court above the stage. What this allowed Kanye to do was surf his crowd of fans, and get closer to the movement and spirit of his concert. While typical stages only permit a select few to be close to the action, Kanye’s stage allowed fans to look up to him, dance beneath him, and experience the presence of Kanye as Kanye intended.
The stage display was a true testament to Kanye’s theatrics and grandiose. Albeit simple, the red and orange lights casting from above and below Kanye’s stage made it seem like the crowd was on fire. And with how crowded the arena was, all you could see were limbs dancing, moving and pulsating to the beat. It was ethereal how Kanye’s music possessed the crowd; with varying ages and personalities passionately singing every line from “College Dropout,” to “The Life of Pablo”. All while Kanye West himself, isolated on his stage, performed the hits that made that crowd possible.
But the concert was more than a testament to Kanye’s success, it was an exhibit. With Key Arena packed and all eyes on Kanye, he took the chance to be himself on stage. While many big budget shows have strict choreographed schedules and routines, Kanye would frequently gesture his DJ to stop the music so that he could speak. Kanye’s candid ramblings can be hard to decipher at times, but taken in context you can see that his mind follows one cohesive line of thought that travels through his music, and into his audience.
His first pause of the night took place during “Famous,” one of his more controversial hits off of “The Life of Pablo”. He sang the much talked- about “I think me and Taylor [Swift] might still have sex,” lyric, paused the music, then restarted the line just so he could hear the crowd yell the line again. It was almost like his way of proving to everyone and himself that he was right; if a whole arena of people are willing to say what he said, he must be right.
Kanye is someone who does not like to be told no, especially if it interferes with his creativity (see the great Kanye versus Nike debate of 2013). And so before performing his verse on rapper Drake’s song “Pop Style,” Kanye interjected again with a rant about Tidal and Apple Music contracts. He stated that the different contracts and ventures between artist Drake, Jay-Z and himself will prevent the three from collaborating again. This was a bold and vulnerable move on Kanye’s part, considering most artists don’t use their stage to push opinions about business agendas. But it was purely Kanye, the one we all came to see.
As fans followed the floating stage like moths to light, one could not help but bask in the legacy the artist has created for himself and his followers. Kanye’s Saint Pablo tour was less concert, more performance art. We the crowd were both purveyors of his doctrine, and also his spectators. This was Saint Pablo’s church, and he came to bless us.
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