I made my way on foot through thick thighs and snapbacks to avoid the $35 parking fee. Past the neon vests who were “just doing their job” and the local radio station kiosk was Oracle Arena, host of the third date on Kanye West’s “Yeezus” tour. 26-year-old Compton native Kendrick Lamar was the opening act and he had a tight performance. His set was songs almost entirely from his debut album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, released exactly one year ago, and now considerably less a “classic” than it was then. Dude was serviceable and warmed up the arena with West Coast lip service, but his shit is built for the outdoors. The sound system bounced off the walls too hard and a backup singer who had a quick solo ended up sounding like Rosie O’Donnell singing the national anthem.
He got the crowd turnt up with “Backseat Freestyle,” his verse from the A$AP Rocky smash “Fuckin’ Problems” repeated twice, and the hyper “m.A.A.d city.” As soon as he started his set with “Money Trees,” enough smoke billowed from the crowd to give Stephen Curry a contact high the next time the Warriors play. Kendrick was performing on Kanye’s stage, though. With the exception of three large screens showing cuts of found footage and girls, the entire construction was for the Yeezus show. The opening ended up looking like a teenage house party in an abandoned Fortress of Solitude. Kendrick played the chorus of 2Pac’s “Hail Mary” much to the crowd’s delight, and ended with the “I Am” interlude from his 2009 EP. After that it was time for the stage to be reassembled and a guy in green cargo shorts to do a sound check.
As the anxiousness for Kanye began to wander, the arena collectively turned their heads to cheer and photograph West’s future mother-in-law Kris Jenner when she walked out to her seat. The sincere excitement was bursting and finally the lights dropped. 12 women wearing robes with pantyhose covering their faces walked methodically out to the center stage. The audience was both completely confounded and totally on board. Kanye emerged with a crystal mask as “On Sight” began to deviate from speakers. He ran through some tracks off Yeezus as the crowd realized what they were in for. The huge triangular white mountain, which I’m convinced was inspired by Daft Punk’s pyramid from their Alive 2007 tour and the Aggro Crag from Nickelodeon Guts, got more involved in the show.
Kanye scaled the mountain and performed “Power” at the peak with smoke nearly engulfing him. He loosened up with “Theraflu” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and during both he danced like a madman, inspiring everyone in front of him to do the same. He did “Coldest Winter” as fake snow fell from the sky and a red-eyed beast with brown fur lurked on the mountain. Kanye climbed his alp again and sang “Heartless” as his legs danged off the side, then hopped off to start “Blood on the Leaves.” When the horns from “Blood” came in, a huge explosion went off on center stage and pyrotechnics seared into the air and down the iceberg as a projection transformed the mountain into an active volcano. This was when everyone lost their shit and even the shy fans who started out slightly bobbing heads were now fully wilding.
Suddenly the mountain split apart and the 12 women returned, this time carrying crosses, candles, thuribles and a statue of the Virgin Mary. Kanye changed his clothes to do “Lost in the Woods” and that was when an Akai MPC was brought out. This was no longer a concert, but a full on religious experience. He hit the first key of “Runaway” and without another note, walked the stage as the crowd shook with anticipation. A louder plink, and then silence. He tapped out the melody but stopped one note short of completing the loop before looking around. The song finally commenced and Kanye gesticulated around like a pro wrestler. All the douchebags, assholes, scumbags and jerkoffs in the audience toasted themselves like it was their last meal.
As the 9-minute song blended into the setting, Kanye spoke on where he got his shit-talking from: his grandpa, who died a couple months ago at 98 years young. His grandfather would call himself “the master” before a conversation even started. This morphed into ‘Ye singing, “I feel so blessed because I did it by being myself.” He explained that he titled his song “I Am a God” as such so anyone singing along would in turn be calling themselves gods. From the line, “Pink ass polos with a fucking backpack” to his current crystal-mosaic masks and scarecrow jackets, Kanye has never been anyone else.
He sermonized about how the world becomes smaller to children as they get older. When adults judge other adults, they put them in boxes and make it harder and harder to break out. Kanye dreams of becoming everything great in the world and it pains him that others cannot see more for themselves. He rapped off beat more than once and missed lines when he was out of breath, but anyone making this spectacle will be rejected or respected on their terms. Kanye may very well be the only one of us who isn’t crazy. He preached that, “If you love somebody tonight, hold them tight,” and created a loving energy so strong I could still see it with my eyes closed. And before anyone could think that we were really in the presence of God, he both confirmed and denied it. He proved that everything is possible through prayer because he prayed for his fiancé, whom he proposed to two days ago and has been alluding to in songs since at least 2009. He rapped a few lines from Lil’ Troy’s “Wanna Be a Baller” and next performed “I Wonder.”
After an emotional rendition of “Street Lights,” he walked through the mountain and all the lights in the stadium went down. He returned as the Daft Punk samples of “Stronger” were playing, now wearing his Red October Air Yeezy’s and a new face mask that he used to become a human disco ball. He said he feels like he got a second chance for life and that’s why he subscribes to the philosophy of “turn down for what,” before moving into “Through the Wire.”
Without warning, white Jesus appeared, and Kanye dropped to his knees and removed his mask. After “Jesus Walks” came the triumph of conquering the universe: “Flashing Lights,” “All of the Lights” and “Good Life” all detonated with more fireworks. A type of post-ecstasy swept up the fans in an euphoric nirvana. Then Charlie Wilson’s angelic hook1 from “Bound 2″ fell across the crowd and everything evil was swept away as we chanted, “Jerome’s in the house, watch ya mouth.” Kanye’s naked face smiled. I really, truly believed that only a higher power could’ve created something this beautiful. Kanye and his 12 women knelt to the mountain, as big as ever, with white Jesus and his outstretched hands atop. Yeezy walked to the foot of the mountain, turned, bowed, and walked off. The women followed. The lights came up. I walked the extra half-mile to my RAV4.
1. The two things the show missed the most were Chief Keef’s soul for “I Don’t Like” and “Hold My Liquor” and Charlie last name Wilson’s live fruition.↩