The nature of waiting on Kanye West’s ye has been conflicting. In some sense, it was nerve-racking: Kanye West, already the most polarizing artist of the decade, had recently come out as a Trump supporter (suspected to be the product of a mental breakdown). The first track released from this album cycle was the meme-birthing “Lift Yourself,” arguably Yeezy’s most cringe-worthy lyrical work to date. This also comes as the world of mainstream rap is enthralled by a Drake and Pusha T beef that seems to only be growing. With that being said, there’s still the excitement that comes with being a Kanye fan. It’s not exactly at the same level of The Life of Pablo, with the Yeezy Season 3 showing at Madison Square Garden or surprise album drop on SNL. Reading about the listening party in Wyoming and getting the album a few hours later, I felt the same exhilaration as hearing that Life of Pablo dropped on SNL, seeing the Yeezus artwork, and first hearing “Runaway.” From the time Kanye announced this album until now, it’s been a period of wrestling with wanting the new album to be good from a fan’s perspective but also struggling to come to terms with Kanye’s politics. Surprisingly, there was little to be worried about on either front. Continue reading
There are a handful of moments during Kanye West’s Saint Pablo Tour where West drops to his knees at the center of his floating stage, because Kanye turns wherever he plays into a place of worship. When the show closes with “Ultralight Beam,” Madison Square Garden wasn’t an arena; it was a cathedral. Yeezus’s floating stage gets the most talked about, but the lighting design is equally exciting. Sometimes, the stage is mostly blacked out, and the lights come up over the moshpit. The whole show is communal. It’s easy to get lost watching the moshpit, but Kanye keeps his energy up above the pit with the same presence as a punk-rock vocalist.
Kanye is easily one of the most polarizing artists of the past decade. When entering the arena, most artists of Kanye’s stature would be playing the hits of their contemporaries, but Yeezy opted for ambient drone music. This almost seemed like preparation for when the overhead lights descended and synthesizer music narrated the light show. While the energy on the floor electrified as soon as the lights went down, it didn’t truly burst until “Mercy,” where Kanye opened up the fucking pit.
Kanye’s best songs play off large emotions. Whether it’s the celebratory nature of “Gold Digger,” the remorse on “Runaway,” or the depression on “Heartless,” Yeezy’s heart is sewn to his sleeve. All of those emotions are explored on the Saint Pablo tour and then some. West’s icy silhouette during “Wolves” and “Heartless” starkly contrasts the guy slam dancing during “All of the Lights” and “Famous,” but it’s truly a testament to how much Yeezy’s music continues to resonate with listeners and himself. Kanye laid down on the stage as “Runaway” ended and reached out his hand as if begging the audience for forgiveness. Kanye’s the father, son and preacher in this instance.
Kanye kept speaking throughout the evening about how this event had the most tickets ever sold at Madison Square Garden. With everything Kanye does, it’s difficult to tell if this was true or just a delusion, but the Garden certainly felt packed. Kanye’s neo-gospel sound was only improved by the 20,000+ people. The studio versions of the songs don’t hold a candle to how they echoed throughout the halls. When “Ultralight Beam” closed the show, it’s shocking to think Kanye didn’t ascend into Heaven and just descended backstage.
James is on an Ultralight Twitter.