Live Review

Kanye West, Hammersmith Apollo, London

There are no special guests and the band are at the side wearing masks – this is undiluted Kanye.

‘Remind me again who’s the original super-fly? And I got love for Hov but I ain’t fucking with that ‘Suit & Tie’.’

It wouldn’t be a Kanye West gig without some controversy and a healthy display of his enormous ego. And, tonight at Hammersmith Apollo, he duly obliges. And let’s face it, you’d be pretty disappointed if he didn’t.

As the show – which has been breathtaking and was perhaps going a little too smoothly – nears an end, he breaks down ‘Clique’ (which he actually raps on with Jay-Z) and delivers a ten-minute tirade about the state of the music industry, the rap world and… well anything that seems to enter his mind really.

Hov wasn’t the only target that Yeezy had in his sights – his scattergun outburst also took aim at Grammy Awards, racism, Obama, and the rap game becoming a business. So we get ‘I don’t give a fuck what the president got to say’. We get: ‘I’ve never won a Grammy against a white person’. And we also get the bon mots: Remind me again why the Grammys can suck my dick’. He also took on money-hungry corporations, ‘I hate business people… People get at me and say …How much shampoo can you sell with yo face on it and shit?’

It’s hard to tell whether this is a carefully choreographed diatribe to court controversy or whether we’re witnessing a nervous breakdown live in West London (though the fact that he doesn’t do it at the show the next night claiming he ‘was in a bad way’ at this show suggests it might be the latter). Whichever it is, one thing is clear: it’s not surprising. These type of rants are standard fare for Kanye now. You’re kind of expecting it – the hypocrisy of it all (considering how much tickets were for tonight) and the self-awareness and the humour. He knows we’re expecting it.

The only thing you hope is that it doesn’t detract from the show. Because it’s extraordinary. It highlighted, if it needed highlighting, what a superstar Kanye West is. The Apollo is an intimate gig for him now and tonight it seems to scarcely contain his ego talent. He seems to have pulled out all the stops. The stage set up is stunning – gigantic cinema-like projector screens are all around and above. The stage itself has been made into a ramp.

He enters to a blast of ‘Cold As Ice’ and huge images of icebergs. He’s wearing all white, looking slightly like a yeti and prowling the stage. The scope of the show is staggering. Through it we get lightning, thunder sunrises, space and it even starts to snow halfway through the show (it seems like all the money was spent on the set and not on the merchandising). It feels like you’re involved in an absurd and extravagant post-modern opera piece about the changing of the seasons.

There are no special guests and the band are at the side wearing masks – this is undiluted Kanye. If you were playing Kanye bingo you would have got a full house. He actually says ‘I’m motherfucking Kanye West’ at one point and during the tirade reprimands the keyboard player saying ‘You’re not the lead instrument, I’m the lead instrument’.

But this is Kanye; this is what you want. And the set means he can get away with it all. It’s a show heavy on hits from a mixture of his records – we get tracks from ‘Graduation’ and ‘808’. ‘Jesus Walks’ and ‘Say You Will’ are tossed away early on and during ‘Heartless’ he wears what looks like a white stormtrooper-autotune helmet.

Other highlights are an anthemic, soaring ‘Homecoming’ and a segwayed ‘Flashing Lights’ and ‘All of The Lights’ backed by pulsating illuminations which get the crowd bouncing. And by the time he gets to ‘Stronger’ and ‘Run This Town’ they are worked into a frenzy.

But that ego of his is never far from the surface and he stops ‘Good Life’ midway through to claim that Taylor Swift is a 6-year-old and again state Beyonce was robbed (yes, he’s still going on about that!). He doesn’t even bother to finish the song.

And the batshit-ometer goes even closer to going off the scale as he performs his own version of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ while wearing a diamond-encrusted gimp mask.

The crossover of the crowd – the most varied mix I’ve ever seen at a show; from rap fans and those dressed up to the nines, through to hipsters – shows what a star he is. It’s a show that is completely Kanye West. It’s extravagant and self-indulgent – and it’s brilliant. For all the ridiculousness of everything else, tonight Yeezy manages to pull off intimate and grandiose at the same time very well. It was just him on stage and at times it felt very stripped back. And that’s an incredibly hard dynamic to pull off.

The rants, the diamond masks, the stadium-sized screens crammed into a tiny venue and the fake snow. This is undoubtedly the most bizarre, crazy, entertaining Saturday night out in a while.

You think he’s finished as he stares at out at the crowd singing an extended (that’s an understatement) ‘Runaway’ – asking us to toast the assholes, the douchebags, the scumbags and the jerk-offs – and then climaxes with an bombastic but touching ‘Lost in the World’.

But as the stage goes dark he returns to end with a rare outing for ‘Gold Digger’. He drops the mic, it lands with a deep thud and he walks off. No more words are needed. He’s said enough.

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