Friday, September 5, 2014
It’s not every Friday night that the spectacle of arguably the world’s biggest music recording star pops into town, with his equally famous spouse and nautically named daughter. We had to wait for it too – after dropping the West Coast leg of the BDO in 2012, this was Kanye’s first show in Perth since his Good Vibrations appearance in 2008 which left many unimpressed, and his original dates this year got postponed.
Opening up early was Pusha T, half of formidable hip hop duo Clipse, a rising star in his own right and a key member of Kanye’s GOOD Music label. It was a pity Mr T’s set wasn’t a bit later as he would have had a chance to impress a lot more people.
The build up to his entrance was dramatic, with the orchestral tones of The Imperial March from Star Wars booming out of the speakers. All of a sudden it went dark, and there was a deafening howl of angry dogs barking and growling – referencing the video clip for Black Skinhead. Then there was an explosion and West emerged from the stage, rising from a hidden platform, in a plume of smoke and red light – which kind of seemed like the reverse of that scene from Star Wars, when Han Solo is lowered into the carbonite.
Wearing one of his custom bejewelled masks he launched himself into Black Skinhead, with its industrial drums and riffage, and from that moment on he had the crowd transfixed.
The monolithic rectangular LED screen at the back of stage exploded into life, and provided an amazing visual backdrop – flashing colours and patterns, and projecting solarised silhouettes of Kanye.
Early on he busted out the heavy, trappy Mercy and the Foreigner-sampling Cold, two cuts from the Cruel Summer compilation that also featured Clique, which made an appearance later on.
The show was tight, with tracks flowing together seamlessly. Some people might have expected a band or dancers – but apart from producer Mike Dean hidden up the back in the darkness, adding live guitar and keyboard, it was essentially the Kanye show. And put on a show he did.
He tore through his formidable back catalogue, commanding attention and radiating energy, the atmosphere was electric. His vocal ability live has definitely improved and the Arena sound system delivered a loud and clear mix.
Can’t Tell Me Nothing was delivered with gusto and had everyone singing along. The auto-tune soaked Heartless had to be abandoned due to tech problems with the auto-tune, but he quickly redeemed himself with a blinding rendition of old school favourite Jesus Walks.
New track New Slaves was intense as Yeezy got the crowd to sing along. “There’s leaders, and there’s followers…” But it was the Power that really got the crowd going – with a big rock guitar intro. Unmasked he finally addressed the crowd, “Hey Australia, how you feeling tonight?”
He shouted for the crowd to “Make a circle!” as he launched into Blood On The Leaves. The Daft Punk-sampling Stronger proved it is still an epic track – and served as an end of the first set as West left the stage.
Soon enough he popped up again out of the floor, illuminated in bright, white light and armed with an MPC, with which he launched into Runaway.
Midway through he stopped the track, stating “This is the part of the show where I deal with frustration.” launching into one of his infamous rants. Mostly he talked of his fight for creative freedom, being misunderstood – “I just wanna make my shit” – and an overall positive message. Then he started to vent his anger at Nike, whom the rapper has parted ways with after disagreements over royalties and supply. He has now signed up with Adidas and announced he will be bringing out some new Yeezys with them. “This is just the beginning.”
His penchant for ridiculous statements came to the fore though when he commented, “Now, there’s only two times in history – before Yeezus and after. One day I want you to tell your kids about tonight.” When you see a Kanye show, you get to see him in his element, and somehow it all kinda makes more sense.
Rihanna’s familiar vocal announced Run This Town, before he launched into a mighty finale sequence. First the hit that shot him into the international spotlight back in ’05, Diamonds From Sierra Leone. Then All Of The Lights which truly did have ALL of the lights. Possibly still his biggest track and always a live favourite, Gold Digger killed it, though he left us all hanging on the line “We want pre-nup.”
Ironically, the biggest cheer of the night was when West gave a shout out to his wife, side stage, who had just flown in with little North West from London, dedicating Bound 2 to her. The crowd went crazy, like they momentarily thought Kim Kardashian might roll out onstage on a motorcycle. But Kanye simply cut to “…the world famous Tony Williams” who was unfortunately not there in the flesh to belt out his awesome vocal part, and for some reason we only got the first verse before he left the stage again
He returned after a suspenseful break, to perform an intense reprise of Blood On The Leaves, the trap edged, Nina Simone-sampling track was probably the highlight of Yeezus, so it was fitting to end, as the giant red LED tower appeared to slowly sink into the stage.
There’s no one quite like Kanye and what he does next is anyone’s guess – but it’s bound 2 be exciting to witness. West is a man unhampered by expectations or trends, blazing his own trail and following his creative muse wherever she may take him – and that’s really what you want artists to do.