Monday, December 9, 2013
Concert review: Kanye West’s fans rewarded with uncensored show in Dallas
The impressive set included of a scalable mini-mountain (which broke apart and breathed fire), a moon-shaped video wall, and a triangular stage that could bounce on hydraulics.
Contentious radio interviews, relentlessly mocked proclamations of greatness, show-stopping technical issues, and a reportedly paltry arena crowd in Kansas City: Such concerns clouded the narrative of artist Kanye West’s Yeezus tour before it landed at Dallas’ American Airlines Center on Friday night. And if those things didn’t incite ticket holders’ anxiety, there was the stubborn blanket of ice covering North Texas and preventing folks from safely going anywhere but their mailboxes.
Yet, thanks to the determination of West’s (and opener Kendrick Lamar’s) seemingly fearless young supporters, Friday’s concert felt relatively well attended considering the circumstances. Only the nosebleed sections were empty. And rewarding those who braved the elements, the performances from both men left no room for disappointment, different as they were.
California’s Lamar, backed by a small live band and a wraparound video wall shoved in front of the covered Yeezus set, offered up 45 minutes of well-loved material mostly off of his now-Grammy-nominated album good kid, m.A.A.d city. From “Money Trees” to set closer “Compton,” the crowd in the floor-spanning general admission pit treated Lamar like the headliner he’ll most certainly become.
After a short intermission soundtracked by building atmospheric instrumentals, West emerged with a gaggle of 12 modern dancers to lead the house through a unique and uncompromising rap performance.
The Yeezus tour production seemed inspired by the thematic focus of theater and the visuals of art cinema (particularly Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 work, The Holy Mountain), rather than the established constructs of arena pop. Its set consisted of a scalable mini-mountain (which eventually broke apart and breathed fire), a gigantic moon-shaped video wall and a triangular center stage that could bounce on hydraulics or rise and point toward the upper levels.
For the better part of the evening, West moved around somewhat undistracted by his audience, wearing head-covering masks designed by the French fashion house Maison Martin Margiela. His cast of dancers frequently surrounded him as he worked his way through four thematic segments dubbed “Fighting,” “Rising,” “Searching” and “Falling.”
Instant classics “On Sight,” “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead” blended seamlessly with older hits like “Power” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” letting West channel the uncensored anger and frustration that have often defined his public persona.
Nearly 20 songs in, after performing “Runaway,” West gave a monologue that cleverly covered the public’s perception of him: “I know sometimes I look frustrated … but for me as an artist my creative success is to get my ideas out to you.”
The well-placed monologue allowed the artist to shed his frustrations (and his mask) in the concert’s final, redemptive segment, “Finding.” Apart from a much-publicized Jesus figure joining him at the beginning of “Jesus Walks,” the Yeezus tour concept elegantly faded away for crowd-pleasing renditions of “Stronger,” “Flashing Lights” and “All of the Lights.”