Review: Kanye West
Glitches masquerade as spontaneity in a show where West’s genius rarely pokes through
A masked Kanye West performs during his Yeezus tour. Photograph: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Kanye West, Pharrell Williams
Marlay Park, Dublin
Kanye West baffles for sport, but there’s something odd about one of the greatest musicians of his generation not being able to shift enough tickets to make this suburban site feel full. The pairing with Williams is also discordant.
Williams wears his tunes sunny side up, skipping through his catalogue including the terrible Blurred Lines and the ubiquitous Happy. But Kanye is all about the grits. This is the Yeezus tour, an excellent record that chose hard industrial sounds and jolting rhythms to envelop egomaniacal rapping rants. Like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808s & Heartbreak before it, Yeezus fell through the hip hop ceiling, leaving everyone else scratching their heads and wondering why they can’t make that kind of entrance.
Most of the coverage of West these days focuses on his celebrity, attention of his own seeking, but here, his image is muted. A studded Margiela mask hides his entire face for most of the show. Infrared-like West-focused visuals from an incongruous on-stage camera are screened behind. When the side screens do work, they mostly flash red.
This is far removed from the euphoria of his Watch the Throne tour with Jay-Z, and is occasionally strangely unengaging. There are some flashes of genius. His a cappella performance of Clique is forceful and intense, Power retains its impact, All Falls Down and Diamonds from Sierra Leone boom out, as does Jesus Walks. But it’s the tracks from Yeezus that are the most compelling. Opening with Black Skinhead, there’s a surge of energy that you long be plugged into the amps upping the sound. On Sight bleeds into a cover of Chief Keef’s I Don’t Like. New Slaves, illuminating West, simply soars.
Despite these highlights, the set is blighted with sloppiness dressed up as improvisation, and glitches masquerading as spontaneity. At times, West’s propensity to restart songs, or fiddle around with a soundboard at the end of Runaway feels like that guy at a 4am house party flicking through tracks on his phone. For such a fan of design, for such a perfectionist, for such a self-proclaimed superstar, West’s willingness to tour this leg with a setup that is more paired back than purposefully minimal is a shame.
The production holds back on everything, which might work indoors, but not in a field at twilight. He ends with a mess of Bound 2, but then he reemerges with Blood on the Leaves, pulling the set back from the brink.