Kanye West - Hammersmith Apollo, London 24/02/13
There aren't many artists out there that could announce a show at a weeks notice, charge £75 and sell out three consecutive nights, especially if that person has a dubious history performing live (despite impressive showmanship Kanye West has struggled with consistency in the past) but this man's charisma alone could draw a crowd, even without the string of hits tied to his diamond encrusted mask, but more on that later.
Following horror stories about the previous night's show of long, disorganised queues and a lengthy wait for Kanye West to take the stage, the 405 team attending Sunday's show were prepared for the worst. However, not long after 9pm the lights dimmed and the stage, an elevated white slope surrounded by giant white screens, lit up, almost surprising the crowd who immediately spotted a familiar silhouette on the screen covering the Apollo roof.
The projection of an arctic ice shelf appeared across the screens and stage providing an incredible backdrop as the rapper who, following an intro of MOP hit 'Cold as Ice', broke into 'Cold', taken from last years G.O.O.D. Music project Cruel Summer. Anyone assuming that this show would be a platform for Kanye West to road test new material would be way off the mark. Instead, we're treated to a greatest hits set encompassing all the MC's albums, even his experimental pop record 808 and Heartbreak with 'Heartless' and 'Say You Will' both lending themselves to some auto-tune self-indulgence, leading to many members of the audience heading off for a quick toilet/drinks break.
The crowd were completely with the rapper when he pumped things up a notch though. Undoubtedly one of his finest songs, 'Jesus Walks' was met with a euphoria from both old fans and new. Dazzling the crowd with that Diamond face mask, which didn't seem to offer any way of either seeing or breathing, whilst performing some of his 'Diamond' inspired hits.
While punters at Saturday night's show bore witness to one of Kanye West's world renowned rants, which took in everything from that Taylor Swift outburst and The Grammy's, to his one time mentor and now partner Jay-Z's collaboration with Justin Timberlake - ironically spoken over a track which originally featured the Jigga Man, 'Clique', saying "I got love for Hov, but I got no love for that suit and tie." Sunday however, we were treated to just the song alone, with Kanye West acknowledging that he was "in a bad way" the night before, encouraging the audience to participate in the chorus.
Audience participation was a theme on the night with Kanye West stopping 'All of the Lights' at least twice to have the crowd fulfill the perfectionist's requirements. While Kanye West was adamant we join in en mass with the line "Something wrong, I hold my head, MJ gone, that n***a dead," that just brought out the British mentality in large sections of the crowd as murmurs of "I can't say that!" rippled around us.
Unlike us PC brits though, Kanye West can say what Kanye West likes and Kanye West can do what Kanye West wants because he is Kanye West and he demonstrates this with a fifteen minute rendition of 'Runaway', reaching his most self-indulgent peak of the night. Nobody cared, or lost focus, everyone knew there would be reward for humouring the man on stage, who unlike many other rappers, gets on with business without a hype man to back him up. Although let's be honest, Watch the Throne aside, would you expect Kanye West to share the stage with anyone?
After ending the set with 'Lost in the World', Mr West returns with a very short encore of 'Touch the Sky', short being that it was just one verse of the Curtis Mayfield sampling classic originally featuring Lupe Fiasco. Above all the ego-fuelled fun, there was nothing more you could want from a Kanye West gig, expect maybe another Kanye West rant?
Purchase and listen
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"I spoke to Michael Jackson before he passed" explained Kanye West during a rare moment of calm in his and Jay-Z's amped up, full-throttle set in the O2. "And he said 'Kanye, if I'm ever not here, I want you and Jay to take the crown'," sliding into his hit 'Good Life' before anyone had a chance to try and work out what the hell he was on about. Not that they cared much. [read more]