Last night, hip hop superstar Kanye West continued his Fall tour with a show at Madison Square Garden, his second show at the storied venue in in the past two nights. The tour has been getting interesting reviews since it launched two weeks ago, with Kanye performing on a stage that floats above the crowd and moves over the entirety of the floor, across the arena. Needless to say, I was eager to check this out for myself. Hip hop in arenas doesn’t always work out, but Kanye has proven time and again to provide unique concert-going experiences, so I went in with high expectations. As it turned out, this added element removed the frills from the concert. With no video screens or pyro to distract from the show, most of the performance was spent focused on the artist himself, trapped on that tiny stage for two full hours. In that sense, it was a beyond impressive showcase of Kanye’s true talent as an artist and performer: the entire audience was entranced and in a state of euphoria for the whole concert. Leave it to Kanye to re-invent the live show.When I arrived at the show, the venue was packed. Every single seat in the venue was filled, and the floor was one large open space. MSG usually splits their floor up into “East” and “West” sections, so being in one large area made the floor seem huge, and packed. When Kanye finally went on, he indeed entered the concert on a floating platform with lights underneath it. He would stay on the platform the entire concert, attached to its center by a metal rope that was in place to prevent him from falling off. When the music finally started, kicking off with The Life of Pablo track “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, the crowd went absolutely insane, and the floor simply exploded with energy. People were moshing, people were jumping, and what seemed like the entire room was singing along to every single lyric.“Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2”, and the controversial “Famous” came next, and West simply had the crowd in the palm of his hands. The stage was moving left to right and back again, and the lights were underneath the stage, and not on him, lighting up the crowd as he moved above them. Kanye was essentially silhouetted by cell phone lights in the crowd, making for a cool visual effect. As the stage moved, some fans stood still, and some ambitiously followed the stage across the floor, adding the the mosh pit affect of the show. He quickly threw in covers of “Pop Style” by Drake and “THat Part” by Schoolboy Q, songs on which he has guest verses, before performing another Pablo track with “Facts”.The crowd went absolutely nuts for the next few songs, which are heavier and have harder beats. First up, Kanye covered “I Don’t Like” by Chief Keef, before setting the crowd ablaze with his Grammy-nominated hit “All Day”. The mosh pit really picked up for this song, and the energy went up even higher when “Black Skinhead” started up next. “Niggas in Paris” sent the crowd into a frenzy when it came next. Jay-Z, who was in the building with his wife Beyoncé, unfortunately did not hop on stage to perform this song with his partner in “Watch the Throne”.Finally, Kanye started up “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, his first true older track, coming from his 2007 album Graduation. The rest of the show would lean less on Pablo material and more from his older catalog, and from that point on the mosh pit atmosphere stopped and the floor felt like a huge nightclub. It was a slick transition that really paid off, as the venue seemed to fill with positive energy as the “greatest hits” portion of the night kicked off. “Power” came next, and at this point the lights were off the crowd and Kanye was lit by a spotlight, leaving him seemingly suspended in darkness. “Blood on the Leaves” and “Freestyle 4” followed, bringing the mosh pit vibe back one more time before the mega-hits continued.When “Jesus Walks” started, the huge light rig above the stage was revealed for the first time. It was massive, and seemed to have a few different sections that moved independently from each other. Although huge, the rig was simplistic, in that was a series of rows of lights that only used a simple palate of colors. They were more atmospheric than spectacle, and added to the minimalistic feel of the show instead of being overwhelming. “Flashing Lights” showcased the lights even more, as Kanye stood on his small stage while lights moved over him from one side of the stage to the other.At times the light would shift positions, moving down to create a pattern that would essentially trap Kanye on one side of the arena for a song or two while bringing the lights closer to the crowd. Because the crowd on the floor was so lit up, it was like an inspiration for everyone to go nuts. The floor was one of the most fun concert experiences I’ve had, as a result. Simply smiles, with everyone wanting to dance as hard as possible during their time in the spotlight. Kanye spent a good amount of time getting the crowd to sing along to his lyrics, and at points would seem to be rapping to specific people in the audience.At one point, Kanye pointed out his band, which consisted of a DJ, a synth player, and a singer, and it shined a light on the production involved in re-creating his music in the live setting. Sure, there were backing tracks being played by a DJ, but also the sound was augmented by vocals and synth playing with huge effects attached to them, giving the songs a different kind of pop that can only be described as loud. the loudness extended throughout the arena, as the sound system was based in the center of the room and not on one side or the other, giving the concert a surround sound feel (with extremely heavy bass).At times, Kanye knelt down to get closer to the rabid crowd, and at one point he laid down and reached his hand down, inspiring a number of people to try to jump and touch him. One lucky fan was able to reach Kanye during “Runaway”, and the whole audience went nuts. In that moment, it felt like that one fan was an ambassador for us all, connecting with this huge superstar for a moment. It was a cool gesture, given his artistic entrapment caused by the stage design. As “Runaway” started, Kanye boasted that this concert had sold more tickets than any other event in the history of Madison Square Garden, and, with no stage on the floor to take up space, it certainly looked and felt that way.If you have a chance to see Kanye West on this tour, and you even somewhat like his music: go. You will be completely surprised at just how captivating one man and a microphone can be.
Kanye West Captivates MSG With Floating Stage & Career-Spanning Setlist [Review]