A crazy little show called Yeezus

Last night’s Kanye West concert at the Bell Centre presented two choices: Dismiss Yeezy as a pretentious nut divorced from reality, or allow his artistry to mess with your head for two-and-a-half hours.

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Kanye West

Those who attended last night’s Kanye West concert at the Bell Centre were presented with two choices: To dismiss Yeezy as a pretentious nut divorced from reality, or to allow his artistry to mess with your head for two-and-a-half hours.

After the druids in panty hose leotards, the parting vaginal mountain, the massive downwards pointed screen, the face covering masks, the Sermon on the Mount-esque front tip of the stage, the fake snow and even a cameo from Jesus himself, I can safely say I bought the dream. Granted, the 15-minute long rambling monologue about sneakers and Cirque du Soleil was too much of a hard sell, but the rest of the Very Special Evening with a Very Complicated Man (in an admittedly not-so well attended Bell Centre) was too captivating and unique to reject as hubris.

As a straight musical endeavour, the Yeezus show wasn’t great. The music was largely canned, the sound was muddy, and West often let the crowd handle the heavy lifting. Perhaps even more egregious, for most of the night West concealed his face with jewel-encrusted masks, meaning his already mush-mouthed rapping style was further muffled by his accoutrement, and you couldn’t see his facial expressions.

The first part of the set dealt mostly with songs from last year’s abrasive Yeezus album. The harsh music fit the pseudo-future occult stage set-up, which included a mountain that could split down the middle, a screen above it capable of recreating an assortment of bright and cloudy skies and a long catwalk for West and his interpretive dancers to navigate.

After the Yeezus cuts and his lengthy motivational speech, West removed his mask and rolled out hit after hit, largely in chronological order. Fans of College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy were rewarded for their patience, including a pyro-tastic rendition of “All of the Lights” that served as the night’s visual and musical apex.

West also picked the right song to close out the night: “Bound 2.” The single is for the most part vintage Kanye, including the squeaky R&B vocal sample, but it’s an inelegant smattering of ill-fitting hooks that works with the rest of Yeezus. It’s the perfect pop song for a generation of music listeners who can’t get through a single song without being distracted by an incoming text message chime.

The Yeezus show was inconsistent. It placed visuals over music. He gave a surprisingly polite speech. As a concert, West has probably done better. In terms of pure spectacle, West has never been more interesting. ■

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