There is no way to really say how awesome seeing Kanye West live was. I keep going to the word “insane” every time someone asks me how it was, but it was so much more than that. It was theatrical, it was emotional, it was funny; it was the best entertainment I have ever seen. Music that has been playing throughout my adolescent life more frequently than anything else was being performed live for me and it was one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced. The man is a born performer and knows how to give the people something worth remembering forever. I know exactly what songs he played and I can remember so much of the show I still feel like I am walking out of Philips Arena, ears ringing, smile etched on my face. I don’t know if I can do justice to how breath taking the show was and there was so much going on I know I forgot so many things, but this review, more than any other is for me so I never, ever forget what happened the night of December 1st 2013.
Kendrick Lamar is whom Kanye got to open for him on this legendary tour and for some unfathomable reason, there were not nearly as many people there to see Kendrick as ended up showing up for Yeezy. Luckily it did not matter to Kendrick and it certainty did not matter to me. He went through most of his good kid m.A.A.d. city tracks with an energy of the kind of person never satisfied with themselves. Kendrick has come a long way in a very short time yet I never once felt a sense of entitlement from him. He still seemed to be ever grateful for his chance to perform his music in front of anyone, let alone a half empty basketball arena. He worked up a sweat within the first song and continued to work his butt off jumping around and rapping his raps like it was both his first and last time to ever perform. My seats allowed me perfect access to seeing him and I was about four or five feet away for good parts of the show. It was the closest I had ever been to Kendrick even though this was the third time I had seen him and that alone made this a unique performance. Obviously it was not as intimate as seeing him at Sunshine or even at Pitchfork simply because I could feel the emptiness of the arena every time the lights went on, but it still was enjoyable to hear tracks off one of my favorite albums of the 2000’s.
At times it got too loud though, and that was not even counting the fact I had forgot earplugs. Kendrick had a live drummer, guitar and bass player and for some reason their amps were cranked as loud as physically possible so when Kendrick wasn’t rapping, the music became overpowering. Really though, I just loved seeing him again, and for every little thing that bothered me, being able to scream the classic line: “FUCK THAT TRUCE” made up for it.
My favorite part of his whole performance had to be seeing him smile like a little goofball every time a song would end. He was smiling for the cheers but also because I think he genuinely loves what he is doing with his life and he appreciates the love more than we know. Yes he came off a bit arrogant as he posed for pictures after every song, basking in the flashes of phones constantly going off, but his genuine smile never faltered and his boyish charm endeared him even more to me. His work ethic is incredible and even though the Sunshine show was better, this really showed me how far he has come as a person, artist and performer.
At this point I began feeling guilty wishing Kendrick off the stage though, and that in essence is probably why this was not my favorite performance of his. I knew that my favorite artist of all time was up next and as much as I wanted to give Kendrick my undying attention, Kanye already had it and he wasn’t even on stage yet. This goes back to how long I had been waiting though. I arrived to Phillips arena around 3:15, and the doors didn’t open until 5:30. So I had been waiting A LONG time. It was worth it though and I would have done it all again because the anticipation that built in me was incredible when it was released.
I met some hilarious and really diverse people in line anyways. I had two white girls down from North Carolina who loved Kanye even more than me and had purchased the VIP seats. I had a black chick and her friend who were down from Virginia who topped all of us with Kanye love and had memorized what setlist he would play, every miniscule fact about the show and anything in between. Both sets of people were hilarious to talk to and every now and then other people in line would join in our conversations that spanned our first Kanye experiences to how much we were going to talk about the show the next day no matter what our teachers asked us. It was fun hanging out with random Kanye lovers because normally I am only exposed to Kanye love inside my circle.
Of course the gates did not open on time and then once we did get in we had to go through a metal detector, then go stand in a different line to get a wristband to enter our section. By the time I got to the floor after buying my friend a shirt it was almost six. The spot I got though was nothing less than insane. The way the stage was set up, there was a walkway that jutted out through the VIP section and ended right at the end of my section. So I got as close to the end of the walkway as I could which was three rows away. So if Kanye was to come out all the way to the end of the walkway I would be less than ten feet away.
The wait began again though as we now had to wait for Kendrick to come on. He surprisingly came on relatively on time but only played about 45 minutes and Kanye still did not come on until 9. Luckily they set up the first props while we waited and we watched the giant mountain that was the background of the whole concert become unveiled steadily, as if to tease us with how close we were to seeing Yeezus.
And then he was there, on stage, playing “On Sight” of all songs. People went absolutely crazy. The roar of the crowd was like I was back in Sanford stadium and people were jumping and screaming the lyrics (something I was both impressed and surprised about) and the blaring sounds of “On Sight” assaulted my ear drums combining with the pandemonium. He rattled off three straight Yeezus tracks which as they played through I realized I did not even know well enough to compete with true Kanye fans. There were girls behind me almost drowning out Kanye with how loud and accurate they were with their singing. I slowly started realizing Yeezus is not the kind of album I personally can turn up to but I continued to sing when I knew, just waiting for the moment it would all click. Maybe because I had been waiting so long and the start was so surprising or maybe just because I had so many built up expectations, but I was not having the life changing time I expected. Yet.
When the opening notes to “Mercy” dropped I about lost it. The one song I had been attempting to hear live since its release, hearing the intro so early in the set was the kick in the pants I needed to remind me where I was and who I was in the presence of. I hadn’t even really comprehended that Kanye West was five feet away from me. FIVE FEET AWAY. He had on the most ridiculous outfit of course, an American Eagle tank top, with a red and gold glittery mask on and red pants with Confederate flags stitched all over. After “Mercy” he went into “Power” and a string of Cruel Summer songs which I have honestly never, ever been so turnt for. As each one was played I kept saying to myself, ok and that was the last one. And then “Clique” came on. Or “I Don’t Like.” Or “Theraflu.” I was surprised but, this was honestly probably the best part of the show for me.
During all the jumping and chaos, I had wiggled my self in front of some chick who I was not allowing back to her spot as she repeatedly elbowed me in the back when all of a sudden she pushed me and screamed, “Get the fuck out of my way!!!” I looked at her flabbergasted and let her past, astounded at her and frankly a little alarmed. It put me out for a couple of songs but when the stage started to raise in front of us and a cliff like thing was created I was right back in. Kanye climbed atop it, laid down and began “Coldest Winter” which was almost too beautiful to behold as he talked about his mother and what the song was about before he went into the eerie song.
I can keep going on about each song he played, but as the show went on, I started to just go into overdrive with my senses. Each time he played a song, I felt like it was going to be the best song of the night. Going to a concert where I know every single song, every single lyric and love the artist unconditionally is so rare for me yet here I was, in the presence of Yeezus and loving every second of it, trying to absorb it all to the best of my ability.
There was just something so humbling to hear songs like “All of The Lights” and “Good Life” and “Jesus Walks” live, rapped in front of me, not off a recording, and hearing an entire arena scream the lyrics along with me. These songs I had sang and rapped countless times with my friends, at party’s and in the car but having Kanye mother fucking West in front of me, in fact mere feet away from me pouring his heart and soul into these songs was honestly otherworldly. I screamed myself hoarse that night from all the singing I did and I felt more personally connected to him that I ever have felt before just being in his presence.
He even gave us a nice little speech about how nice it would have been to have auto tune as a middle schooler to “holler at girls with.” He sang a lot during this time, just singing and thinking out loud and then he went into how there are two kinds of people in the world: haters and dreamers. Haters are just dreamers that have forgotten their dreams. It was crazy listening to the fans scream their adoration at him. People treated him like God with their praise and love and just ridiculous things they were yelling. It was like being at church the way Kanye would say something and the crowd would respond with “We love you Kanye” or even “Amen Kanye.” People revered him more than most priests and any real religious figures it seemed and his claim that he is God rang the truest that night in Atlanta. It was not the same fanatic love that Lil B had inspired but the love was there. Almost as if Kanye is more like God and Lil B is more like Jesus. It is a stretch I know but both artists have inspired some of the most reverent love at shows that I have ever seen. Kanye’s love was just more. Not generic but just expected and normal of someone so amazing like Kanye. Lil B felt like he was inspiring a revolution though and the reaction in the crowd had similar energy to something as exciting as a revolution.
The night ended with what else, but “Bound 2” and by this time I had tried to cry, scream and dance myself into oblivion and hearing the “uh huh honey” just felt right. “Bound 2” is a special song in its own right, a throw back to what Kanye was before while also combining how far he has come. Hearing it last, after a night full of hits and life lessons was the absolute perfect ending to the best performance I have ever witnessed. When he finally left the stage, I stood by myself, just staring at the now empty stage, ears ringing and just smiling. I had seen the three best concerts of my life this year and seeing Kanye to end the year could not have been more special. I knew I had been blessed beyond belief to see this tour of special magnificence, and my love of Kanye was nothing but solidified. He truly is a God among men.