Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West presented quite the juxtaposition in their concert last night. Where as the opening Lamar focused on a small, three-person band and a short film of friends in his hometown of Compton to back him up, Kanye went as expected—not big, but huge.
Lamar’s performance was good, gushing energy in his hits from his latest album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, like "Backseat Freestyle" and "Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe." The live band does not do his records justice, as touches of a jazz flute float in at one point. Unfortunately, the arena was just starting to fill at the end of his set. For those of you going tonight, get there early. It’s worth seeing.
Following an hour-long set swap, West was ready to present himself. His 12 babely apostles walked cultishly onto the glacier-like stage and patiently awaited West's—ahem—Yeezus’s explosive appearance onstage. Donning four different bedazzled S&M masks, he energetically whipped the audience through a two-hour, marathon synopsis of his rap career. Whether he sang "Flashing Lights" from Graduation or angrily spat "Black Skinhead" from his most recent creation, Yeezus, West brought tons of electricity and crowd-pleasing beats.
The entire performance was reminiscent of the passion of the Christ, with each jewel-encrusted mask appearing to signify a point in his life as Yeezus. He began in a colorful mask with a gold jawline to start the show. A black-and-ruby-toned face cover displayed his angry, angsty side, performing songs like “Blood On The Leaves” (complete with flames) and “Coldest Winter,” a song in honor of his mother who died in 2007, lying on his back as fake snow drifted into the crowd.
A disco-ball mask represented resurrection, with songs like "Stronger" and "Through the Wire." Mixed with his Indian-inspired Sherwani coat, he fantastically looked a bit like a luchador. Finally, a white mask announced his angelic side (yes, he has one), with "Runaway" and an entrance processional typically reserved for Roman Catholic masses, with incense, crucifix, Virgin Mary statue and such regalia.
He ended the show face uncovered (finally, unlike with MF DOOM, we could be sure it was him) and blasted through his older hits like "Jesus Walks," after an apt blessing from White Jesus, and "Diamonds From Sierra Leone." Finally, West closed with "Bound 2," passing the mic into the throng for audience assistance, as flames and flares fired. However, no naked Kim Kardashian on a motorcycle.
But wait, what would a Kanye concert be without a 15-minute rant? The self-proclaimed new Steve Jobs/Michaelangelo/Walt Disney let off steam, kvetching about the media’s attempt to control him, that he’d have to care in order for that to be possible. Yeezus encouraged others to stop caring what others think, because “you’re only as good as you think you are." (Spoken-sung in Auto-Tune.) He was admittedly tame, confessing he had calmed down since the beginning of the tour. (Sorry to those at earlier dates. Or should we say sorry to those in Chicago?) Aside from this gentle tirade against the media, he remained fairly mild-mannered and almost coy for the entire night, joking at point, “At least I’m fucking up in my own city,” when an A/V hiccup brought a moment of pause.
The best quote of the night: “My baby mama is Kim K! I am from Chicago and my baby mama is Kim Kardashian! The media can’t find a better headline than that.”
Whether West was accompanied by his 12 apostles, a scary mythological creature with glowing red eyes, Tony Williams on vocals or Jesus himself, he overwhelmed with character and enthusiasm. Despite having his face covered for approximately 75-percent of the set, noticeably dripping sweat through the contraption, he continued to jump and sprint about stage, imbuing each tune with a different emotion, driving fans out of their very expensive seats. You got what you paid for. Did we mention he went non-stop for two hours? The man is one hell of a performer.