Kanye West made an appearance at Madison Square Garden earlier this year when he launched his latest fashion installment, Yeezy Season 3, and his new album, The Life of Pablo. The venue was packed for both the fashion show and listening party.
This week, Mr. West was back for round two at the nation’s most storied arena, playing two back-to-back, sold-out shows. This time around, he was literally floating on a first-of-its-kind suspended stage. (I recommend going online to watch videos.) The stage was held up to the ceiling with crane-like structures, known as trusses, and was propelled up, down and sideways. West told Rolling Stone Magazine he envisioned the stage 10 years ago and it took eight months to build.
“I just wanted people to get into it and have a fun time,” West told the magazine.
The stage leaves enough room underneath West’s magic carpet for the world’s biggest dance party, which has included celebrities including J.R. Smith, Jonah Hill and Vic Mensa.
West turned 39 years old this summer, but he has found a way to continue to attract the often distracted youth. He is constantly pushing the envelopes of music and art, and the Saint Pablo Tour is no different.
At the Yeezus Tour three years ago, West rapped in front of a massive mountain, wearing a diamond-encrusted Margiela mask for almost the entire show. Women in nude bodysuits surrounded him, and there were cameos from a red-eyed demon and Jesus Christ. Kanye donned a persona that made him appear to be a god among men.
Now, on the Saint Pablo Tour, West seems more human to his au- dience, with no masks or mountains. Although the stage is floating, its minimal style deviates from that of the productions we have seen from him in the past. On the stage, which included lights above West and ones built into the stage itself, he stood alone. He was closer to all of his fans — both on the floor and up in the nosebleeds.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kanye West concert without a stream-of-consciousness rant. The rapper is known for preaching to crowds about whatever is on his mind at the time. However, almost disappointingly, there was nothing of the sort at this particular show.
The tone of the evening was set before the show even began. As fans arrived, low, whale-like sounds blared from the speakers. As people returned to their seats with drinks around 9 p.m., the noises morphed into creepier howling sounds.
West performed almost all of his new material from The Life of Pablo along with some bonuses, including “Only One,” a rarely-heard single featuring Paul McCartney in which West calls on his deceased mother. West also delivered a few notable feature verses, including Drake’s “Pop Style” and Schoolboy Q’s “That Part,” but the original artists didn’t join West on stage — and the stage would have been too small to accommodate more than one musician, anyway. “Famous,” the third song in the set and one of the poppier cuts on The Life of Pablo, was refreshing to see performed live as opposed to watched in the video, which features various political figures and other celebrities naked in a bed together.
The best part about West’s musical performance is that when he plays “Jesus Walks,” one of his first singles from his early-career, you can see that it is just as beautifully crafted as “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 2” (which, by the way, apparently shook the arena so hard the Knicks thought they were going to have to find a new place to play).
Clocking in at 90-minutes, this show was shorter than typical Kanye West performances. It may have been quick, but it was also memorable. At the end, as “Ultra Light Beam” played, Kanye glided out on his magic carpet and ascended toward a moving light. Just like that, Mr. West was gone. He is human, but not that human.