The show began with 11 women in white gowns and stockings shrouding their faces making the slow march to the stage while hypnotic, hymn like music droned. “On Sight”, “New Slaves” and “Send It Up” were the beginning. The scene included mountains that became volcanoes. A platoon of faceless, body suited female minions who moved like re-animated corpses and one of the most recognizable musicians on the planet performing most of the night with his face completely obscured by bejeweled masks. As you may have guessed by now, it didn’t take long for a numerous amount of the Music City’s fans to get a taste of the demanding perfectionism of the one and only Kanye West during his “Yeezus Tour” at the Bridgestone Arena last Wednesday night.
West performed every track from his 2013 album. This may have made the first half of the concert a little tough for casual fans or those only familiar with his more accessible radio hits. The songs on “Yeezus” are stark, brutally minimal at times and full of harsh effects and harsher lyrics that aren’t well suited for singing along or dancing. This was probably the main reason why a lot of the crowd were in their seats or moving awkwardly for much of the show.
The thunderous new songs like “Blood on the Leaves” and “I’m In It” that dominated the first half of the set proved how uncommercial Yeezus can translate to a wide audience. The idea was designed to inspire, warn and impart great wisdom. The careful effort put into the set list, designed around five acts entitled ‘fighting’, ‘rising’, ‘falling’, ‘searching’ and ‘finding’ was impressive. There was a definite narrative that progressed through the stages of West’s life and career. However, the crowd clearly didn’t buy in. His fans seemed to mainly want to dance, cheer and sing along to his impressive array of hits. They were beyond restless. If you were a hardcore Kanye fan looking to marinate into the darkness of those songs, you loved it. If not, you were hanging on tight for the explosive celebratory final act, where Kanye loses the mask to hit you with “Flashing Lights”, “All of the Lights”, “Good Life” and “Bound 2” to close the show. At that point, West delivered to inspire a crowd thrilling expose without missing a beat.
Kanye West doesn’t like an abundance of things. He rants. He raves. He carries on and on and on. This night wouldn’t be any different. Of course he ranted. It wouldn’t be a Kanye show if he didn’t. He compared himself to the likes of Nelson Mandela, Michelangelo, Henry Ford, Picasso, among others. He exclaimed, “I’m not crazy. I’m not out of control. I’m just not in their control.” He mentioned Nike along with other fortune 500 companies as well as execs. “Don’t ever let ‘em tell you that I’m crazy”, he hollered. He eventually returned to his true purpose, launching into “Stronger”, shaking the crowd out of its comatose state. West raised the rafters with “Jesus Walks” during which the famed celebrity finally took off his mask to be blessed by ‘White Jesus’.
West delivered an emphatic reminder of his place among the greatest hip hop artists of all time with an energetic, artistically, ambitious, majestic performance. The rapper’s first solo outing in five years was gloriously bombastic, over the top, yet somehow still beautiful. He delivered old school classics such as , “Power”, “Cold”, “Clique”, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Coldest Winter”, which he addressed was written about his mother’s death in 2007.
Kendrick Lamar, a fan favorite, who has become a major star since his arrival onto the hip hop scene, opened the show, performing hits from his second studio album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”. This was his second appearance in the Music City in the past two months. He headlined and rocked out Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym at their ‘Quake’ in early October.