Saturday, July 11, 2015
KANYE WEST - OTTAWA BLUESFEST JULY 10TH
Bell Centre Stage
This was a perfect night for an outdoor event, warm and clear with just a few clouds emanating from herbal jazz cigarettes. Main objective: stake out a spot further back from the front of the stage with a view, while avoiding getting crushed or hit with water bottles. Tension started to creep through the assembled crowd as the "Yeezus of Cool" delayed his appointed 9:30pm appearance by twenty minutes. One guy in front of me yelled "We love you, Kanyeeeeee!!" repeatedly until he was hoarse, as his girlfriend cringed with every ear-shattering scream. He settled down after she hit him.
With that mercifully timed act of necessary violence, a bank of floodlights lowered toward the stage and the man himself emerged with the intro of "Stronger" throbbing from the mains.
A FEW OBSERVATIONS
When the bass kicked in, it packed the power of a one-inch punch to the sternum delivered by Bruce Lee in his prime.
There was no band, back up dancers nor were there any costume changes in evidence.
Songs in the set were frequently cut short by West himself and he would simply move on to the next one.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" was not attempted.
Thousands of attendees will be deleting heavily distorted, low resolution clips from their phones today.
Overpowering his flow in the first few songs was a very low-end dominated mix out front, which swamped "Power" and "Black Skinhead". He actually stopped mid-song, the lights came down and there was an uneasy break in the action as this was sorted out. The master of ceremonies then returned to the mic and proceeded to obliterate the gathered throng (roughly 25,000, reportedly) with a barrage of wordplay, sonic chaos and unrelenting energy.
Coming in, I did not have a complete digestion of his discography and what material I had heard didn't really blow me away as a listener. Through the course of the show, it became very clear why he has amassed such a fervent fan base.
From a psychological viewpoint, I have never witnessed anyone control a huge crowd so masterfully before. People were vibrating and knew every word of every song, with Kanye happy to let them do the heavy lifting and sing/shout his lyrics. Usually, the artist will have to do some work to get things going in a live setting. No exhortations were needed from stage to elicit audience participation and it was absolutely mesmerizing. The concept of the big outdoor rock spectacle has been well documented, yet this gig had little variation in lighting effects, no group of musicians to observe or take solos and very little banter.
Just one guy with a mic
There was an odd element to the proceedings in that it felt as if you were part of a human iTunes performance experiment, especially when he would turn to his tech and say, "Skip this and play the next one" and the track was cued up on a dime, cutting the previous song dead instantly. No one reacted negatively. West addressed his fans sparingly, though when moved to speak he was nothing if not predictably ostentatious:
“I want you to tell your kids about this one day, I want you to remember this. There’s a lot of great people who make music that I enjoy and all, but there’s only one fucking Kanye West!!"
He also managed to get in a few choice words directed at,"celebrity sell-outs who don't rap from their heart and soul and compromise their art for corporations, the money, and public opinion.”
Who does this guy think he is? Neil Young?
Sweeping aside the braggadocio, he did smile a few times, softening momentarily to thank the faithful:
“I really appreciate y’all, I love performing these songs, travelling the world, fulfilling these dreams!”
People genuinely love this guy. As for the often mentioned haters? They didn't appear.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show. While he is not a singer, his skills as a rapper/performer are estimable. The presentation was incredibly well paced, never dragged and held moments of true spontaneity, despite the absence of a live band. Ending on a quiet note with "Only One", by the time he wound it down, there was still a definite buzz in the atmosphere, though no encores ensued. He simply disappeared without any further word as the lights came up. As a result of attending this stellar happening, I now "get it" and have far more respect for what he does when caught in the act.
Cold as Ice
(Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean cover)
I Don't Like
(Chief Keef cover)
(Big Sean cover)
Blood on the Leaves
No Church In The Wild
(Jay-Z & Kanye West cover)
Through the Wire
All Falls Down
Can't Tell Me Nothing
Touch the Sky
Niggas in Paris
(Jay-Z & Kanye West cover)