This was the last night of the Kanye West Big Day Out tour and The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was buzzing with excited punters. At 8:30PM the words “ACT 1”, followed by a cheesy painting of Roman statues, was projected onto the huge backdrop as the Jay-Z and Kanye single “H.A.M.” signaled that it was time to give up on the impossibly long drink queues and take a position.
A troupe of interpretative ballet dancers rushed onto the stage, performing, as they would for the rest of the night, choreographed moves to the music, as “Dark Fantasy” began, and Mr. West himself rose, seemingly out of the audience, atop a cherry picker. Adorned in jeans, a baggy white t-shirt and huge gold chains, West rapped his arse off furiously as he moved over the cheering crowd, before descending onto the stage and an insistent clapping rhythm, that we were urged to mimic signaled the beginning of the 2010 single, “Power”.
What followed was a huge, indulgent, glamorous musical extravaganza, featuring carefully plotted out lighting and costume changes as the music bowl paid tribute, and worshiped at the altar of Yeezy. Moving quickly through highlights from all stages of his career, although notably nothing from the recent Jay-Z collaboration, Watch the Throne, the over-blown audacity of the production was a thrill to watch, and you would expect nothing less from the self-tortured genius of Chi-Town’s most famous export.
Appearing to be in a good mood and sounding in fine voice, West performed several highlights from his back catalog, including “Jesus Walks” and “One Hell of a Life”, which he declared to be his “favourite shit”, in quick succession, before the words “ACT 2” appeared upon the backdrop.
Kanye has established himself as being one of the most interesting figures in pop music today by not being afraid to try out differing styles and ideas that interest him, and consequently it is only natural that not everybody will be blown away by all of it. It was clear, however, that tonight the Louis Vitton Don was intent on giving us the complete ‘Ye experience, and Act 2 was largely dedicated to 808s and Heartbreaks, an album which, upon release in 2008, divided many of his fans.
During “Love Lockdown” the 20-odd interpretative dancers swept back onstage, with one even getting a solo spot, which looked great and was only slightly marred by Kanye’s insistence on stopping to correct the lighting operator, “I’M supposed to be RED, the back is supposed to be BLUE, this has been rehearsed! I don’t know what’s going on…we’re not moving until we get this shit right!”
“I’m just trying to give you guys the best possible experience,” he explained, offering an insight into the kind of prima donna micro-managing that has ensured that the thirty-four year old continues to seem consistently, and equally, ridiculous and impressive.
A version of “Say You Will” seemed to go on for a long time, until the following track, “Heartless”, clocked in at over twenty minutes, turning into an AutoTuned singing freestyle, which surely tested the patience of even the most die hard fans in attendance.
This part of the show was obviously important to the artist, but thankfully, as in his recording career, he eventually returned to hip-hop, with the opening notes of the Rhianna featured, Kanye-produced, Jay-Z hit, “Run This Town”, bringing forth a warm response, to which Kanye responded appreciatively, “I love this song too!”
A medley of “Through the Wire”, “All Falls Down” and Estelle’s “American Boy”, on which West guest featured, eventually led into last year’s hit single “All of the Lights”. The rapper stopped and started the latter song several times in order to whip the crowd into excitable frenzy, which he did so successfully that it got one of the biggest reactions of the night, with the appropriate strobe lighting backing up the lyrics
Continuing his campaign to literally be the new King of Pop, Kanye then emerged on a raised platform in the middle of the stage, wearing Michael Jackson’s Thriller-era tight red leather suit and, armed with an MPC, he performed the instantly recognisable slightly off-key opening notes of “Runaway”.
Despite the fact that the Dark Twisted Fantasy single is a fantastic pop song, this was one of the night’s low points, as Kanye chose the piece as being his vehicle for having a rant/telling a story about himself, and freestyle-sang his way through a thirty-five minute version of the song, with the aide of his good friend AutoTune. Having already witnessed similarly long performances during the 808s bracket, this extended version tested the audience’s patience further, until finally “Lost in the World”, a highlight from Dark Twisted, signaled a return of the dancers and what amounted to, as it did on the album, a grand musical finale.
Just when it seemed the show was complete, West reminded us that he needed to dedicate this show, as he does every show, to his late mother, performing the first half of Late Registration’s “Hey Mama”. The entire troupe then came out to take their theatrical bows, as this was without a doubt, an extremely entertaining night of stadium theatre, from a man whose ambition and dreams are limited only by his own mortality.
The show was everything you would hope for and expect from Kanye West – overblown, ridiculous, and incredible. Even if there were definite moments, perhaps even a whole hour, that seemed to be asking a lot of the audience’s attention, the rapper had successfully summed up his career to date in one spectacular show – some moments of head scratching and rolling of eyes directly followed others of sheer brilliance.
It was a concert as conflicted, divided and entertaining as the artist himself, but that’s what makes him so damn unique.
Originally published on The AU Review on 03/02/2012. View original article.