Date: 20th February 2006. Venue: Hammersmith Apollo, London. In Attendance: Me & Tes. Occasion: Kanye West brings his Touch the Sky Tour to Town.
This The Blueprint homies, follow my moves…
Feeling unusually unexcited about the concert but none the less looking forward to the night ahead I set off for the smoke. As I waited for Tes at the gates of NikeTown some “community police” eyed me suspiciously, I’m pretty sure they were just respeckognizing my especially fresh Tee.
After a quick visit to the household we were on our way, more correctly we were on a slow ass train waiting for the ‘security alert’ to get cleared up further down the line.
The show itself, like Late Registration, was to prove disappointing by unavoidable comparison. We arrived mad late, squeezing thru the doors and joining the back of the crowd to discover that we’d only missed the first couple of minutes – later on I only remembered the first number as “one of the long slow songs from the album”.
I cannot deny that the 10 piece orchestra (led by a hyperactive violinist), backup singers and DJ (A-Trak) was impressive, and possibly necessary to bring the multi-layered musicality of the songs to life. I put it down to our late registration but the nagging under whelmed feelings did not dissipate.
When The College Dropout tour came to town for one night only back in ’04 it was a magical affair that went down as one of the best in the year that was soundtracked by the irrepressible Mr. West.
Whilst I can appreciate the skill and dedication put into Late Registration it just doesn’t move me like The College Dropout and this show is the same – everything is done to perfection, except it’s not.
This show is not perfect, it is rigid and strict and I can’t get loose to it. Everything is choreographed to miniscule detail – even the long drawn out song endings are rigidly and strictly adhered to. The crowd interaction seems scripted to the utmost.
Case in point – one of my greatest show experiences comes from that evening in ’04, when Kanye launched into Slow Jamz only to have the entire crowd sing the words back to him – his mic held loosely at his side, the expression of wonder on his face was priceless. Nowadays this is a scripted part of the show – A-Trak spins the original track, Kanye directs the crowd. Cold Call and Response, this is more like the answering machine.
Then there is the “media” rant complete with quotes on the big screen that he has taken particular umbrage with (including one which is actually a compliment – backhanded though it was). Upset that his oh-so-humble-look-I’m-not-arrogant Brit Award speech (the Brits?! Who the fuck cares?!) had been cut short he knelt on the floor and went on for a bit. I suggest that he stops paying mind to the celebrity fawning gutter press (of the UK in particular) if it upsets him this much. I understand he is trying to overcome it but he doesn’t seem to realise that he is still playing by their rules and, as such, into their hands.
It is a real shame that the positive messages in Kanye’s music get glossed over by the whole superstar image nowadays, the words become secondary to the whole package. Not that this crowd seems to mind much, first-name-superstar pop concerts (yes, Pop Concerts) bring out the bougie crowd, a mostly white crowd that is happy to sing along to Gold Digger (Digga?!) and holla the chorus to Crack Music, but they can’t hear Jimi. It was interesting to watch Tes try and throw a slap in all directions at once.
Songs? Well, you all know them, he did most of the album but without the guests they lack impact, Lupe Fiasco’s wonderful closing verse being the exception. Unless it was the first song Diamonds from Sierra Leone is conspicuous by its absence. Even Through the Wire sounds off; leading me to wonder if another stint with his jaw wired shut would do him some good. Bizarrely it is Jay-Z’s U Don’t Know (produced by Just Blaze) that gets people most hyped. There was no Encore.
The after party was at some swanky Leicester Square joint called Penthouse where the prices were Sky High! Sky High! – Tes got on the Bat Phone and immediately found the location but when we rolled up the queue was round the block and the only way to jump it involved miniskirts and “favours” no doubt, needless to say this was borderline homo.
This was all just a little too polished and impersonal, it was like theatre or TV, like the crowd didn’t need to be there – the token, security accompanied, jumping in front of the first row just seemed fugazi (after watching Nas jump shirtless into a gun toting crowd rocking his shine all else pales by comparison!). So Kanye finally has the whole world checking for him, but gone is the diamond in the rough passion – forgive me if I preferred it when most of his plaques they still said Kayne.