No stranger to Music City, Kanye West was back again, with his ambitious Saint Pablo Tour this past Saturday, September 24, at Bridgestone Arena. West took the microphone in Nashville for the first time in nearly three years. We all have our opinions on Kanye, but perhaps no other non-presidential candidate causes more people to draw a line in the sand and firmly declare either their allegiance or opposition. Once you’ve planted your feet, you won’t be easily swayed to the other side. Love him or hate him, the 39-year-old is one of the most famous entertainers in the world. When he possesses a microphone, the world listens — either out of interest, contempt or morbid curiosity. This might be one thing that fans and detractors agree on.
After reaching the mountaintop with his elaborate Yeezus tour props in 2013, Ye’ had yet another surprise in store. He shocked fans by ascending into the heavens, performing on a floating stage — an ultralight beam. The floating stage is West’s latest representation of his relationship with fans, and one of his most impressive. By eliminating a traditional stage, West redefined the floor seats/nosebleeds hierarchy of accessibility that comes along with these shows. On the platform, his position stayed in flux, moving closer to the stands while floating just out of reach of the attendees on the floor, who are delegated to watching him from below.
West isn’t the first artist to use a floating stage in his live act. Here, however, it’s particularly meaningful, subverting Saint Pablo’s status as one of America’s most desirable tours, with a stage that serves as a democratizing force for the crowd watching. Given premium seats’ high prices and scarce availability, if ordinary fans want to see their idols up close, they’ll have to pay. Coming from an artist whose past tour concepts have ranged from glow-in-the-dark spaceships to White Jesus, Saint Pablo’s is a concept legitimately worth applauding.
Meanwhile, Kanye was tripling down on his controversial “Famous” lyrics about Taylor Swift. During this packed session, the rapper played the song three times. He even paused at one point to throw some extra shade at the pop star and critics that find the lyrics inappropriate. Whether Nashville likes it or not, it’s a town that tangentially factors into West’s legend. Five years before he even met Taylor, it was another Nashville star at whom West went after. Gretchen Wilson beat him for Best New Artist at the 2004 American Music Awards. West told reporters, “I was definitely robbed. I was the best new artist this year.”
It took years for West and Swift to repair their relationship after he stole the show from her at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. They had just patched things up when West released “Famous.” The two have been battling ever since, and after West released a video for the song featuring a nude sculpture of Swift, their relationship is messier than ever.
West has been performing more than 30 songs a night on this current tour. A large portion stem from his most recent release “The Life of Pablo.” Although released in February, it has continually been revised with new mixes and alterations for months — an unprecedented move for such a high-profile release. Elsewhere, he picks favorites from each of his albums, which stretches back to 2004’s “College Dropout.” West stays in the spotlight. West has earned him 22 Grammy awards to date.
Somewhere in the middle of those 30-plus songs comes a moment Kanye fans, as well as the media, have come to expect. You might call it a monologue, or alternately, a rant. This unfiltered glimpse into West’s state of mind usually lasts around ten minutes, but on this night he had about three ten minute sessions. On his last visit to Nashville, he called out Nike CEO Mark Parker after signing a deal to make shoes with Adidas. This visit, he went in on everyone he felt has wronged him.
Even if you can’t stand Mr. West, it might be hard for you to look away from his latest concert innovation. Fans received there money’s worth times ten. While countless pop stars have floated over the crowd in small contraptions for years, West’s show marks the first time an entire stage is constantly suspended over the audience and it’s his home for the full length of the show. A sea of fans stand underneath the stage on the arena floor, with the freedom to follow West around as the stage travels throughout the arena, or use the surrounding lights and speakers to host their own dance circles and mosh pits directly under the stage.