Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Glowing in the Dark with Kanye

Saturday night my friend CM and I went to the United Center (where the Bulls play, for you non-sports fans) to see the second night of Kanye West's Glow in the Dark Tour here in his hometown.

We arrived a little after 7:30 PM, and Lupe Fiasco, the first of three opening acts, had already come and gone.

Next up was N.E.R.D., who I wasn't too familiar with, but I have to say that they put on an excellent show. They were probably the most energetic performers I've ever seen, and I've seen a ton of concerts. At one point, the rapper Common was shown on stage, and everyone just went nuts. They also brought several audience members up on stage at a few different points, and it had the effect of making their part of the concert seem like a really fun house party. Needless to say, I was really impressed with how upbeat they were, and their thirty minutes on stage was definitely one of the highlights of the show.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same for Rihanna, who was the last of the opening acts. Perhaps it was because she was wearing sky high leather boots that she thought she might fall over in, but she didn't really dance at all and it seemed like she was just bored or tired. And although she is an excellent singer, during some of her faster songs you could tell that they were playing a track with her voice in the background, because she would move her mouth away from the microphone several times and you'd still hear her singing. On her slower songs, however, it was definitely completely live.

I was very confused that she didn't sing "Shut Up and Drive" or "Hate That I Love You," two of her bigger hits. But maybe that would've expended too much of her non-existent energy. My verdict after she went off stage is that Rihanna is not ready to command large audiences just yet... she's not much of a performer.

Finally, Kanye went on stage at 10 PM (mind you, the starting time on the ticket was 7 PM... so even with three opening acts... that was pretty late!). Unfortunately, we were seated in the ultimate last row of the arena... as in, the highest possible row available. We still had a good view of the stage, but being that high up made it impossible for us to see the majority of the big screen behind Kanye, which was pretty key to experiencing the full effect of the show. There were two other large screens on each side of the stage that remained zoomed in on Kanye the majority of the time, but when they did pan back to capture the full spectacle, I could tell that if we had been a little bit lower, the view would've been much cooler.

Still, I enjoyed it. At first I was a little bit worried when Kanye, alone on stage, started talking to "Jane," his spaceship. It was pretty hokey, and I looked at CM (who had seen Indy 4 with me) and said, "Here we go again..." But if anyone could pull a "space opera" off, it is Kanye, who remained alone on stage for 1.5 hours as his songs loosely pieced together a tale about him trying to return to Earth and bring the planet some much-needed creativity. He really put his heart and soul into the show, especially during "Hey Mama," which seriously brought me to tears.

During the encore, he finally broke a huge grin when singing "Homecoming," since, after all, he was "coming home again" to Chicago.

I can't write about this concert without also mentioning the unintentionally hilarious "book," Thank You and You're Welcome, that everyone was given upon exiting the arena. When you open it to the middle, you are greeted with the phrase, "Believe in your flyness... conquer your shyness." LOVE IT! Anyway, the whole thing is like a mini-self help guide or something, but it was written in true Kanye style. I said to CM that the whole concert was much "happier" than I expected it to be, so I guess being sent off with a memento filled with positive sayings and stories provided a fitting end to the experience. I guess if this rapping thing doesn't work out for Kanye, he could always become a life coach: "You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!"

- e


Anonymous said...

I'm not too fond of Kanye, but I love, Love, LOVE N.E.R.D. (noone ever really dies) ...I'm surprised you never heard of'em, but I sure you've heard some of their songs and just didn't know who it was...I mean, who doesn't know who Pharrell is? They've done production for many artists..check their first 2 albums...very nice...They are on my permanent driving soundtrack.

Sounds like it was a pretty interesting show despite Kanye...I'm always down for a visual feast.

Erika (aka "e") said...

Anon -

Yeah, I did know who N.E.R.D. was, but besides one song I knew beforehand, wasn't familiar with much else they'd done song-wise... like you said, I was more aware of everything else Pharrell does (when does the man slleep?). I do really like Pharrell in general.

Your last line made me think that you got the impression that I didn't like Kanye... but I did! It was Rihanna that wasn't good. Or maybe since YOU don't like Kanye, that's why you said "despite Kanye." ; ) Yes, overall I still think it was a great show.

- e