He’s known to be loudmouthed, polarizing, egomaniacal and disrespectful of women, and on Monday he finally landed at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to answer all his critics and reinforce his base in Minnesota.
No, it wasn’t a campaign stop for Donald Trump. It was Kanye West’s first Twin Cities concert in nine years.
How fitting for the Chicago-reared hip-hop icon, 39, to put St. Paul on the itinerary for his high-flying Saint Pablo Tour. Not only was it appropriate for the name tie-in — “It’s in Spanish,” he dimly schooled the crowd early on — but also to make up for the rash of Minnesota cancellations on each of his three previous tours.
He owed us. Fans got nervous again in the days leading up to this one, since he put off some New York gigs last week after his wife, Kim Kardashian, was robbed in a much-publicized $9 million jewelry heist. Perhaps he couldn’t afford to cancel this time.
While his Yeezy Tour — one of the ones we missed — was an ornate spectacle befitting Kim’s lockbox, Monday’s concert was more like a diamond in the rough. West performed the entire 100-minute set atop a flat, square stage hanging from an electronic pulley system that floated 10 feet over the heads of fans.
That’s right, Kanye spent the whole show levitating. It sounds elaborate, but actually the close-encounters stage gimmick wound up being surprisingly low-tech and daring in more of punk-rock way than, say, his peer Drake’s super hi-fi production at the X in July.
Working under little to no overhead lighting, Kanye spent the entire show floating up there by himself in the dark as if in his own ozone. It was actually something of a — dare it be said — humble, workmanlike approach. He even wore thick worker’s gloves and wore a plain baggy T-shirt that looked liked he was trying to paint stucco instead of his masterpiece.
As was the case with his more masterful A Glow in the Dark Tour stop in 2007 at Target Center, Monday’s show relied on West’s delivery and passion. Alone on stage, he had nothing to hide behind but his microphone. If you love Kanye, you’d have loved the concert.
Of course, there were still plenty of cocky moments the haters would’ve hated. West stopped a few lines into to second song, “Famous,” to brag about not “being politically correct or changing lyrics to make people happy.” He still called Taylor Swift the B-word in the song, in other words — and the crowd loudly sang along to that one and many other songs off the new album “Life of Pablo.”
He was equally brash and bold to make the crowd wait through a lengthy run of his moodier and more dour songs midway through the concert — his serious art-eest songs such as “Runaway” and “Waves.” Similarly, how egocentric was it to not even have a DJ open the show? Instead, he made the 18,000 fans wait through moody ambient music as he went on 80 minutes late, as if he wanted them to start thinking deeply.
One of the biggest Xcel Center crowds of recent years, the audience did a lot more jumping around than it did thinking, getting extra rowdy in “Touch the Sky” and “Black Skinhead” and singing the entire closing minute of the dramatic highlight “Heartless.” Fans’ excitement seemed to be enhanced by the lights on the floating stage that shined down on them instead of up at the airlifted megastar.
For once, Kanye didn’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight, and it worked out beautifully.
Here's the set list from Monday's Xcel Center concert:
- · Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1
- · Pt. 2
- · Famous
- · Pop Style (Drake cover)
- · THat Part(ScHoolboy Q cover)
- · Facts
- · Mercy
- · Don't Like
- · All Day
- · Black Skinhead
- · N----- in Paris
- · Can't Tell Me Nothing
- · Power
- · Blood on the Leaves
- · Freestyle 4
- · New Slaves
- · Jesus Walks
- · Flashing Lights
- · Highlights
- · Feedback
- · Wolves
- · Heartless
- · Runaway
- · Only One
- · I Love Kanye
- · Waves
- · Touch the Sky
- · All of the Lights
- · Good Life
- · Stronger
- · Fade
- · Ultralight Beam