Concert Review: YEEZUS

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During the midst of the worst winter ice storm that Toronto has ever seen, Kanye West took the stage for the first two (SOLD OUT) shows in the City.

Hey Ice Storm….you can’t tell him NOTHING!

Love him or hate him, Kanye West puts on an intense and spectacular show.

To all the haters, the anti-Kanye movement, I’ma let you finish, but…. I’m a huge fan of Kanye West – and this show, was a spectacle for his fans.

Compton-representing cool guy, and GQ’s rapper of the year, Kendrick Lamar, opened with great energy with a too-short killer set, including Money Trees, Backseat Freestyle, Swimming Pools (Drank), and Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe. It was truly unfortunate that the venue was so empty when Kendrick took the stage.

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Drake was in attendance (and apparently so was Justin Bieber), and word spread quickly through his hometown crowd. I turned to see Drake staring out from a private box in the Air Canada Centre…and the lights went dark (at first, I thought it was blindness as a result of seeing Drake’s beautiful smile….but no…. the show was starting). [FYI… Drake performed during the Monday night concert].

The set up was unbelievably beautiful: a giant glacial mountain underneath a changeable LED screen sky. It looked majestic and served as the centerpiece of the operatic show.

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This is an intense and highly experimental tour, featuring an ominous set, Margiela bejeweled masks, faceless “apostles” (women wearing skin coloured masks and body suits), a demon-like creature, and JESUS.

The show was divided into five parts – thematically dividing Kanye’s rise and struggle with fame: Fighting – Rising – Falling – Searching – Finding. The songs were introspectively divided across all of Kanye’s albums, from College Dropout to Yeezus, reflecting Kanye’s professional and personal journey. There was careful consideration in planning this show, and it shows in the artistry of his performance.

Fighting

Kanye burst on the stage following a procession of masked and robed women. A banging intro with the acid-punk and trippy beats of songs like On Sight, New Slaves and Send It Up (a strictly Yeezus-centric playlist) – showcasing an aggressive and almost-hungry intensity.

Rising

I’m going to call this the “G.O.O.D. music” set, featured songs with a focus on the fame, groupies, and influence, including Power, Clique, and Cold (Theraflu). Power is a song to be played in stadiums. It’s one of my favourites – capturing all of the ego and enormity of Kanye West’s stage persona.

Falling

The show takes a darker turn… with a red-eyed “yeti-monster” (aptly wandering out with Monster playing) stalking Kanye throughout his performance.  An angry set featuring Black Skinhead, Can’t Hold My Liquor, I’m In It and I Am A God. The front end of the stage elevated to 45 degrees, giving Kanye a pedestal to sing and yell Can’t Tell Me Nothing.

Finally, in what was my favourite part of the show, Kanye performed a somber tribute to his mother – a cover of Tears for Fears’ Coldest Winter. I loved 808s & Heartbreaks – so I’m always happy to hear this song. It wasn’t the same story for a lot of show goers – many of whom weren’t impressed with the lack of action.

Searching

Here, Kanye deals with personal and professional disappointments, with songs like Guilt Trip, Heartless, Blood on the Leaves, and Lost in the World. We finally had some pyrotechnics and big musical moments – which had a slightly lagging audience back on its feet.

Finding

Finally, we got to the epic rant that all concert goers were expecting. Kanye was surprisingly funny and self-depricating (well….as close to that as Kanye can get). He thanked his fans, called us his “family” and responded to critics by saying “I’m no role model…. If you don’t like what I’m saying, don’t listen”. He declared “ I need to apologize for absolutely nothing!”

As entertaining as it was, the rant really threw off the pace of the show. It was a loooong rant. About 20 minutes long… with some audience members (specifically one guy a few rows behind me) getting antsy, yelling and even leaving. I don’t always agree with Kanye’s point-of-view, but I love his music. He promised the crowd that he’s “gonna get crazier…”. Looking forward to it Kanye.

Finally, after the epic rant ended… Kanye teased the audience with a slow start to Runaway. The rest of the show was full of some of his biggest and best known hits.

The mountain parts and Jesus literally walks with Kanye (in a Jesus meets Yeezus moment), until finally Kanye is unmasked and gives a stellar performance of Jesus Walks.

I love hearing Diamonds Are Forever live… I love that song, and love seeing thousands of “diamonds in the sky”. It makes for an overwhelmingly fantastic live performance. The crowd was brought to a roaring frenzy with Stronger, Through the Wire, All of the Lights (complete with the entire audience flashing their smart phone screens), Flashing Lights and Good Life, until Kanye closed out the show with Bound 2 (I immediately thought of Seth Rogen and James Franco).

By the end of the show, Kanye West was serenaded by his own audience. The YEEZUS Tour is bold, exciting and supremely cool in its undertaking. Like Yeezy said…it’s pretty much amazing.

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Set List (Toronto – December 22, 2013)

On Sight

New Slaves

Send It Up

Mercy

Power

Cold

I Don’t Like (Chief Keef cover)

Clique

Black Skinhead

I Am a God

Can’t Tell Me Nothing

Coldest Winter

Hold My Liquor

I’m In It

Guilt Trip

Heartless

Blood on the Leaves

Lost in the World

Runaway

Stronger

Through the Wire

Jesus Walks

Diamonds from Sierra Leone

Flashing Lights

All of the Lights

Good Life

Bound 2

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