by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
'THE SAINT PABLO TOUR'
You might think Kanye West is solely responsible for putting himself on a pedestal, but nope. That's where his fans want him, that's where they think he belongs. They really do believe he is that rap mastermind, musical savior and innovative gamechanger that the industry, and he himself, have built him up to be.
It doesn't matter whether you or I believe he's a genius, or not, he thinks that he is and his fans think that, so it's a done deal. In concert, this understanding becomes vivid, such as it did Wednesday night when West followers crammed Key Arena to watch him perform for 90 minutes on an elevated platform that he rode throughout the venue like a magic carpet. Those on the floor literally looked up to him, as he zipped through a set list with about 30 songs, of which he played either snippets of the tracks, or the songs in their entirety.
Before hitting the stage at 9:30pm, the setting inside the arena was a bit spooky with fog machines filling the lower levels with smoke and cryptic, murmuring sounds playing overhead on the speakers. There was no supporting act, we all just waited for West to go on, and when that moment happened a tremendous roar erupted and people freaked out, and we gave him our full attention.
West opened the show with 'Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1' and 'Pt. 2,' both from his newest album The Life of Pablo, standing on the platform that was raised about 10 to 12 feet from the floor, dressed in faded denims tucked into construction boots and an oversized hoodie shirt. At times, the platform would slant downwards, like a ramp, giving West faithful on the floor a closer glimpse of him.
The general admission floor level was standing room only, a dream spot for fans who wanted to mosh, bounce up and down, dance, but mostly form mosh pits that began as little swirls and grew into larger circles, like an intensifying hurricane. With people looking up towards the square-shaped platform, which never really stayed in one place but moved around the arena briskly, the concert often resembled a boxing match.
On Wednesday evening's set list were several of West's biggest hits, including a riveting one verse-plus-chorus version of 'Jesus Walks,' a shortened yet hyped rendition of 'Stronger,' where he danced and skipped around the platform, and a solid performance of 'Heartless' that saw the audience singing about a third of it, as well as West rapping a verse with no background music. There was no band or backup singers, it was just West laying down his lyrics over pre-recorded instrumentals and samples. The only big hit missing at Key Arena was 'Gold Digger.'
The unpredictable, or in West's case slightly predictable, happened. He went on a 5-minute rant just before doing a cover of Drake's 'Pop Style,' using expletives to slam Apple and Tidal for messing up the release of Watch the Throne, a collaborative project with Jay Z, and therefore preventing the release of a sequel. The mini meltdown was captured on video by many fans and posted on YouTube, which then led to major headlines on Thursday morning with everybody from TMZ to Billboard magazine reporting on the outburst.
After performing 'Power,' what looked to be a long illuminated runway, but instead was a lighted overhead ceiling for the floor area, was lit up for the remainder of the show. 'Famous,' 'All of the Lights,' 'Good Life,' 'Black Skinhead,' 'Touch the Sky' and 'Waves' were also included in the Seattle show, which coincidentally took place exactly three years after West launched 'The Yeezus Tour' here, on October 19, 2013.
A highlight of the concert was near the end when West slipped between bright red laser beams, like strings of yarn, during the sizzling electro-led number 'Fade' that sounded more like a club remix than the original track. He closed out with 'Ultralight Beam,' as a giant beam of light positioned over the center of the floor shone down like a UFO. The platform was then lowered at one end of the arena, he hopped off and made his exit. Though the crowd wanted an encore, they didn't get it.
The fan adoration was amazing to witness, especially the young men who knew all the lyrics to all the songs and who seemed to worship the man and his career, knowing his extensive catalog of work from early to recent, and who proudly changed into tour merchandise they'd just bought at the venue. In fact, I've never seen so many people buy tee-shirts, hoodies, jackets and baseball caps at a show before; some even purchased bags full of West gear for friends or for holiday gifts.
Sound-wise, the volume was too loud and created a muffled noise during several numbers. That said, the rest of the concert was fierce and while I could fault West for standing on a raised cut-out stage for 1.5 hours, I can't see any other way of him performing in concert. It was symbolic, really; he is that elevated performer that towers above the rest.
'The Saint Pablo Tour' will continue through 2016 with a final date at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on New Year's Eve.
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