Live: Kanye West Does MSG, Jay-Z Stops By



I think Luke Jenner from the Rapture has the same coat

Kanye West
Madison Square Garden Theater
November 3

The low point was “Bring Me Down,” West’s rhythm&blah struggle against post-fame haters. Soundtrack strings and neo-mopey croons behind him, West rapped his piece head in hands: “They gon’ have to take my life ‘fore they take my drive.” Nasty press quotes scrolled down the projection screen — “Kanye can’t rap,” then “If West’s ego gets any bigger his head will explode,” etc. As I scribbled a few down, the guy next to me pulled my pen. “Yo what you writing?” I told him I was reviewing the show. “Why?”

Forget the press — nothing, nobody can touch West right now. He knows this. And as on Late Registration, live West basked in the contradictions his genius affords him. Bright-light, hands-up weed advocacy on “Get Em High” turned one song later into the night’s coldest, most vicious snipe: “Bitch, is you smokin’ reefer?” The Just Blaze-produced “Touch the Sky” moved on up the Mayfield horns it samples into the show’s most triumphant and hope-giving moment — but that was the first song. Soon after for “Crack Music,” West turned angry, ranting incurably on the ghetto epidemic as the stage was doused in deep red police floods. “God, how could you let this happen?”

The pull-n-tug of West’s repertoire kept the show from building momentum, but the loose song-to-song narrative kept it moving at least: Before West can work the graveshift on “Spaceship,” he had to “drive slow,” and so on. Expected anymore to stop by for these things, Jay-Z gave a “surprise” encore performance of “Encore” and “P.S.A.,” which counted for the night’s Big Moments. But more tellingly, people were bummed “we only got Jay-Z” instead of Cam’Ron for his verse on “Gone.” Maybe — maybe — dude should stop reintroducing himself.

Afterwards the mess of age and race and sex exiting the theater buzzed in awe that Nine Inch Nails played the MSG stadium while West just did the theater — while West clearly appealed to so many more and different people. Who knows why, and it was still the MSG theater, but check this: “White people,” West had quipped during the chorus of “Crack Music,” “this is your only chance to say ‘nigga’ — take advantage of it!” It’s possible that, even at this height of cockiness and popularity, West is impossible to over-flatter.